Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 12 (Art and History)

I can’t believe I have only one full day left here in Rome! I nearly started choking up as I passed St. Peter’s on the way to school today. All I could think is, “I can’t believe I only get to pass St. Peter’s on the way to school one more time!” I’ll probably be a sobbing mess as I walk to school tomorrow.

Speaking of school, we have a test tomorrow. Should be interesting as I only seem capable of doing my assignments with my notes in hand.

After class today, my young Russian friend and I met up with three other girls for lunch. One girl is from Russia, one is from Serbia, and the other was originally from Russia but now lives in England and speaks English beautifully. The waiter came up to us and asked (in English) where we are from.

I responded, “Tutti il mondo,” which I overhead someone else say once, and I think means “All of the world.” (I mean, really, what was I going to tell the guy? Well, she’s from Serbia, I’m from the U.S., and these three girls are from Russia, but this one really lives in England now and doesn’t consider herself so much Russian anymore.)

Then he asked something like, “Oh you speak Italian?”

I responded, “Studiamo italiano.” (We are studying Italian.)

Now the one Russian girl was really good in Italian, so she just started asking all sorts of questions in Italian, which I think gave the guy the impression we spoke more Italian than we do; or at least, most of us do.

Anyway, we had a nice lunch with free glasses of Prosecco. The waiter was calling it champagne for us, but he did use the word prosecco once, which is fine because I really prefer it to actual champagne.

Rigatoni Carbonera with free prosecco

Rigatoni Carbonera with free prosecco

After lunch, the very fluent Russian girl tried to find a place for us to “take a coffee and have some dolce.” (It was interesting to talk with her as she often flipped between English, Italian, and Russian. She gave me a funny look at first when I said I was from the U.S. When I added Chicago, she brightened a bit. “Oh, that is a nice city. I wish to go there someday, but the relations between our countries are not so good right now.” How do you say “awkward” in Italian?)

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the right kind of pasticceria. One would have pastries but not coffee; another place would have coffee but no desserts. Eventually, my young Russian friend and I had to break off to go to the museum since our tickets were timed for 3:00.

This time we took the bus up to the Villa Borghese gardens instead of walking (Thank you, Jesus). The Galleria Borghese is a lovely art museum with beautiful paintings and statues. Lots of the statues are of Greek/Roman mythology and will come in handy in my classes.

Hades dragging Persephone down to the Underworld

Hades dragging Persephone down to the Underworld

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne

Paolina Borghese (really woman, not a goddess)

Pauline Bonaparte (real woman, not a goddess)

There was also a lot of Christian art, including Caravaggio paintings.

Caravaggio's David with Goliath's head

Caravaggio’s David with Goliath’s head

Caravaggio's Madonna with the Serpent

Caravaggio’s Madonna with the Serpent

Bernini's David

Bernini’s David

This next little statue cracked me up. I looked at him and thought, “Yep, that’s how I feel after nearly two weeks of walking around Rome. Like I’ve got to sit down and take care of the blisters on my feet.”

I feel your pain, little man!

I feel your pain, little man!

After our two-hour visit, we enjoyed some time talking and sitting in the gardens. The weather was perfect today, about 80 degrees and sunny with a few light clouds.

Then we walked back to the school neighborhood and visited another gelato spot called Gelateria del Teatro. It’s highly recommended by a lot of websites, but I found my experience to be slightly disappointing, mostly due to price and quantity. I paid 3.00 Euros for a very small cone. (At Giolitti’s, I only pay 2.50 Euros and get a much bigger scoop of gelato.)

On the plus side, this gelateria had some interesting flavor choices, so I had Cioccolato Bianco al basilico (White Chocolate and Basil) and Salvia e Lamponi (Garden Sage and Raspberry). They were tasty flavors, but the portions were tiny.

Tasty but small

Tasty but small

The young Russian and I took our cones to a nearby piazza and sat and talked for a long time. She asked a lot about American culture, and in return, I was treated to a Russian explanation of the whole Ukrainian-Crimean-Russian situation. She’s a smart enough girl to know her country sensors the news on television, but she explained how people feel about the situation.

I think meeting so many people from different countries has been one of the unexpected highlights of this trip. Talking with them and getting to know about their cultures is something I’ll always remember.

On the way home, I made a brief stop at St. Peter’s, just because I could. :)

Standing near the same spot I was in for the  General Audience over three months ago now. Looks like they're setting up for more events.

Standing near the same spot I was in for the General Audience over three months ago now. Looks like they’re setting up for more events.

Bracing myself for an emotional day tomorrow. If I don’t post again for a while, it’s only because I’m making the most of my last day in Rome!

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 11 (The Running Russian)

Just when I thought God was telling me to slow down a bit, He sends me the “Running Russian.” Okay, so the girl doesn’t actually run, but the new Russian girl who joined our class on Monday had me doing so much walking this afternoon that I feel like I ran a 10K.

After class, she asked if I wanted to go to lunch. Sure. Why not? However, she’s a vegetarian, so we ended up at the same place we ate at on Monday. I couldn’t persuade her to go elsewhere.

She had salad again; I had gnocchi (and a glass of wine).

And yes, I placed my order in Italian!

And yes, I placed my order in Italian!

Then she wanted me to show her where the good shopping was, so we walked up Via del Corso. I made her take a detour down Via dei Condotti, so that I could see the magistral palace of the Order of Malta. You might remember that I saw the magistral villa last weekend. This is the palace, which is where I believe the real work gets down.

Surprisingly, no one asked me to show them my Order of Malta prayer card. :)

Surprisingly, no one asked me to show them my Order of Malta prayer card. :)

This street led us to the Spanish Steps, where I played the part of the tired old lady who needed to rest her feet for a bit. (By contrast, my Russian friend is only 18.)

When you sit on the Spanish steps, the apartment John Keats lived (and died) in is just to your left.

When you sit on the Spanish steps, the apartment John Keats lived (and died) in is just to your left.

Then we headed to Villa Borghese. These are gardens north of the city center. They are beautiful and quite extensive. They remind me a bit of the parks in London.

The Villa Borghese or Kensington Park?

The Villa Borghese or Kensington Park?

My young Russian friend preparing to take a photo.

My young Russian friend preparing to take a photo.

We tried to get into the art museum in Villa Borghese, but they were sold out for the day. We bought tickets for 3:00 tomorrow. (I’m trying to convince her we have to go elsewhere for lunch tomorrow.)

Galleria Borghese (I'll be back tomorrow.)

Galleria Borghese (I’ll be back tomorrow.)

Then we walked across the gardens to get to Piazza del Popolo. There’s a really cool view of St. Peter’s from there.

View of St. Peter's from the Villa Borghese gardens overlooking Piazza del Popolo

View of St. Peter’s from the Villa Borghese gardens overlooking Piazza del Popolo

The gardens are situated up on a hill above the piazza. My Russian friend noticed someone’s note on the pavement below us. Surprisingly, she told me she couldn’t translate the Italian. Based on her questions in class, I thought she understood more than me.

"But the truth is that I have found nothing more beautiful than you."

“But the truth is that I have found nothing more beautiful than you.”

Down in the piazza below we visited Santa Maria del Popolo. It’s known for a couple Caravaggio paintings that (of course) you are not allowed to take pictures of, but it’s a beautiful church, not too big and it has a lot of angel statues.

Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo

Then we headed back toward school, but not before stopping off at Giolitti’s for gelato! (Amarena and cocco for me this time)

We arrived at school on time for the “Visita Guidata” (guided tour). Since it was all in Italian, I couldn’t understand it all, but I can tell you that she was talking about Marcus Agrippa, and we finished our walk at the Pantheon, which I always forget is actually a basilica now.

Pantheon

Pantheon

If I had more time here, I'd try to go to mass at the Pantheon.

If I had more time here, I’d try to go to mass at the Pantheon.

After my Russian friend and I parted ways, I headed homeward, but stumbled once again upon San Luigi dei Francesi, the French church in Rome. However, this time it was open, so I popped in just for a quick bit to discover they were finishing up the mass. In French, of course.

San Luigi dei Francesi

San Luigi dei Francesi

After some quick grocery shopping to finish off my last few days here, I finally headed home. I hadn’t seen the apartment in about 12 hours. I munched on an apple for dinner and chatted with Marcella (in Italian, thank you very much), who was also eating fruit for dinner. Yep, I’m living like a real Italian woman!

And if that wasn’t proof enough of my authentic Roman experience, my laundry is currently hanging outside on the clothesline!

Hope they dry by morning!

Hope they dry by morning!

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 10 (Sono in ritardo!)

I can’t believe it’s Day 10 already! I’m feeling pretty much at home. Every morning on the way to school, I cross Via delle Conciliazione and say, “Buongiorno, San Pietro!”

Not a bad view for a morning's walk to school

Not a bad view for a morning’s walk to school

A couple times I’ve been running late to school and dashed across at the light, forgetting to look. Not that the sight of St. Peter’s ever gets old! You’ve just got to catch the light when you can.

Class this morning reminded me that some things never change. In my high school German class, I had a friend whose German name was Grizelda (and I really hope I’m spelling that the way she did because I think she may be reading my blog!). Anyway, she was always really good with the vocabulary, and I was always really good with the grammar. We used to joke that together we’d be the perfect German student. Well, nothing’s changed since then. Italian vocabulary still eludes me, but the grammar is relatively easy. Oh, Grizelda, where are you when I need you?!?

To give you an example of the kind of complex grammar we’re doing, today we did the Italian equivalent of the following sentences:

Present Passive Voice: The shop owner is sued by the two men.
Past Perfect Passive Voice: The shop owner has been sued by the two men.
Past Passive Voice: The shop owner was sued by the two men.
Future Passive Voice: The shop owner will be sued by the two men.

In the English classes I teach, this might be grammar I cover with seventh or eighth graders. In other words, in my Italian classes, I’m doing middle school level grammar, but when I talk, I sound like a three-year-old. Oh who am I kidding, I sound like a two-year-old when I speak Italian! Pizza? One for me? Ticket for the bus? One, please.

After class, I headed to Castel Sant’Angelo, which is on my way back to the apartment. I have to say that in talking with other students, I really lucked out with the location of my apartment. It’s nice that I can walk home after class and recharge (myself and my phone) for a bit before heading back out for the late afternoon/evening activities.

When I was on pilgrimage in Rome last April, my group was supposed to get into Castel Sant’Angelo. We arrived before the closing hours, but when we walked up, a guy at the entrance said, “No more. We’re closed. Too many people.” Apparently, they’d reached their max capacity, so this time I was determined to get in there.

Castel Sant’Angelo has quite a history. In short, it was built to be a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (as in Hadrian’s wall, which I saw part of the remains of when I was in Scotland with a friend two years ago).

Starting in the fourteenth century, the building was used by popes as a fortress in times of invasion. In fact, there’s a corridor that connects Castel Sant’Angelo with the Vatican so that the pope could use it to flee attackers whenever Rome was invaded. In fact, this is what Pope Clement VII did when King Charles V invaded during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Passetto di Borgo

Passetto di Borgo

According to legend, Pope Gregory I had a vision of the Archangel Michael with his sword atop the castle, signaling the end of a plague. Thus, the renaming of the structure and what became a series of St. Michael statues on top of the castle. Angelo (my grandfather’s name) means “angel” in Italian.

One of the early statues of St. Michael the Archangel to top the castle (turns out they had some problems with the bronze wings attracting lightning!)

One of the early statues of St. Michael the Archangel to top the castle (turns out they had some problems with the bronze wings attracting lightning!)

The current statue of St. Michael that tops the castle. Incredibly impressive in person.

The current statue of St. Michael that tops the castle. Incredibly impressive in person.

The view from the top terrace (which is where I took the above photo of the latest St. Michael statue) is absolutely amazing. You get a breathtaking view of Rome from above.

St. Peter's from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo

St. Peter’s from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo

If you’re familiar with Puccini’s opera Tosca, this is where the title character throws herself over the parapet.

A view of the Tiber River from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo

A view of the Tiber River from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo

I took a ton of photos at Castel Sant’Angelo, but there isn’t time to post them all. However, I will share with you a souvenir I bought as it fits in with the them of my trip: an Italian cookbook!

My new Italian cookbook!

My new Italian cookbook!

What I really like about this book is that it shows you a lovely picture for each recipe and tells you what region of Italy it came from.

You know the first thing I'm going to make will be a dessert.

You know the first thing I’m going to make will be a dessert.

I had planned to return to school for a free extra lesson on pronouns (I know, sounds exciting, doesn’t it?), but I spent too long in Castel Sant’Angelo. In fact, I nearly got lost in it. I had decided to use the audio guide but couldn’t even find all the numbered spots to hit the play button. By the time I got out of there, it was too late to go to the special pronouns lessons. Oh well, I decided to go home and rest for a bit.

After a rest at home (during which I worked on my homework–yes, we get homework), I headed back out. My plan was to hit Giolitti’s for gelato, then Chiesa del Gesu for prayers, and then school for the Tuesday night group dinner.

On the way to Giolitti’s, I remembered that I hadn’t signed up for the dinner. It’s the only activity they ask us to sign up for ahead of time. So I had to take a detour to sign up in the school office.

I headed next to Giolitti’s, but I stumbled upon Sant’Agostino church along the way.

Sant'Agostino

Sant’Agostino

It was a church I wanted to see for it’s Caravaggio painting of Mary holding a rather large baby Jesus in front of two “scandalously scruffy pilgrims” (or at least, so says my guide book).

Caravaggio's Madonna del Loreto

Caravaggio’s Madonna del Loreto

Finally, I was off to Giolitti’s. It was crazy busy at 5:00 in the afternoon.

Giolitti's (small street, big sign)

Giolitti’s (small street, big sign)

I ordered apple and champagne this time. Rumor has it that the liquor flavors (like today’s champagne and last week’s limoncello) are actually made with liquor. I can neither confirm nor deny that; however, I can tell you that the apple flavor had pieces of real apple in it, and it was delicious!

Mela (apple) and champagne

Mela (apple) and champagne

Next it was off to Gesu. This is a Jesuit church and the place where St. Ignatius of Loyola is buried. Interestingly, he’s not buried in the church that bares his name.

Chiesa del Gesu

Chiesa del Gesu

The whole church, including the altar where he’s buried, is very ornate, something that would probably not please him too much.

Tomb and Altar of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits)

Tomb and Altar of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits)

However, I have to say that I find a lot of the artwork very moving. As I knelt in prayer before his tomb, my eyes drifted upward to this lovely mural on the ceiling above his tomb.

Mural on ceiling above St. Ignatius's tomb

Mural on ceiling above St. Ignatius’s tomb

I assume that’s St. Ignatius riding on clouds that are carried by angels and being lifted up into heaven. His posture makes him seem so joyous, as if he’s stretching out his arms to greet Jesus. What a beautiful way to think about death! That when our life ends, the angels will carry us up on clouds so that we can greet Jesus with outstretched hands.

I stayed long enough in the church that 6:00 p.m. mass started while I was writinng in my journal in the back. The organ started playing a tune I recognized but couldn’t name right away. Suddenly, I was moved to tears, but I couldnt figure out why at first. I had just been writing in my journal about how well the trip was going. How many blessings I’d received. The familiarity of the organ music was starting to bug me. What song was that? Then a line finally came to me: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” No wonder I was crying! Isn’t that just what I had been doing when I’d been listing off all my blessings in my journal?

Finally, it was time to head to school for the Tuesday night dinner. However, when I arrived, there was no one there. I pulled out my list of activities. Oops! I was a half hour late. I thought the dinner had been at the same time as yesterday’s “tandem night.” Nope! Sono in ritardo! For the second time today, I was late for something at school and had to miss out.

As I wandered around the neighborhood looking for a place to eat, I first chastised myself for not double checking the time. I’ve double checked the time for every other activity over the last ten days. Why didn’t I double check this one?

But then as I sat eating my dinner (a simple panini and a limone Schweppes) in the park near Castel Sant’Angelo, I realized that I’ve been doing a lot of running around on this trip. I haven’t taken nearly the amount of quiet time I thought I would. So I ate my sandwich leisurely watching runners and dog walkers and kids playing in the park while classical music was piped through some speakers in the street fest behind me.

Not a bad view for a casual dinner

Not a bad view for a casual dinner

And then I strolled leisurely home, stopping briefly at St. Peter’s. Just because I could.

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 9 (Mi fa male la testa)

I knew it would happen sooner or later. I’d get a headache from studying all this Italian. Today was the day. Since it’s Monday, classes tend to change, and new people can start.

I have the same teacher, but we’re in a different room. Since all the women in my class left, the men (the French guy, the Korean guy, and the British guy) and I were joined with another class. Two of the girls I recognized from last Tuesday’s dinner. There were eleven of us all together. But then during the morning break, we got two brand new people who had just arrived and taken the test this morning. So now there are thirteen of us in class.

I don’t know if it’s hearing Italian spoken in all these different accents or if the class is just getting too tough for me, but I felt a headache come on in class. The discussion part of class is just really, really hard for me. I started thinking about how Elizabeth Gilbert said it took her until almost the end of her four months in Italy to feel like Italian had opened up for her. Before I left for Italy, I asked a friend how long he lived in France before he felt comfortable with it. Again, it was about four months.

So the sad truth is that after two weeks, I still won’t be able to do much more than buy bus tickets, order food, and ask where the bathroom is. But that’s not terribly surprising. Isn’t there that basic “rule” that you have to do something for at least 10,000 hours before you become an expert? I’m a long, long way off from being an expert in Italian.

After class, I talked with one of the new girls. She’s very young and from Russia. She asked me right away if I spoke English. Si, yes. Then she asked in English if I knew a good place for lunch.

So a little while later, we were eating at a small restaurant, and here’s the crazy thing: We’re in the same level Italian, but I was the only one of the two of us to even try Italian with the waiter! Of course, with me all she wanted to do was speak in English because she said she didn’t have a very good English teacher back in Russia. It certainly is interesting hearing about people’s experiences in their home countries.

After lunch, I came home for a bit to work on homework and to take an ibuprofen for my headache. Then I took a short nap. By the time, I was ready to head out again, Marcella was just coming home.

I took the Metro to the Barberini stop and visited the Museum of the Capuchin monks. This is where thousands of dead monks’ bones have been used to decorate a series of small chapels with elaborate designs. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside (and they really are quite strict about their rules here), so I have none to show you except the outside. You can find pictures online, however, if you’re interested in the macabre. Personally, it was a lot less creepy than I expected.

Museum of Capuchin Crypt

Museum of Capuchin Crypt

After that, I walked to Santa Maria della Vittoria. It’s a smaller church, but well known for a statue of St. Teresa of Avila designed by Bernini.

Santa Maria della Vittoria

Santa Maria della Vittoria

The statue depicts the moment St. Teresa had a vision of an angel piercing her heart and filling her with ecstatic joy. It was quite controversial at the time because some people thought it looked like St. Teresa as having a little too good of a time.

Bernini's The Ecstasy of St.  Teresa

Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa

Unfortunately, the statue is placed up kind of high, so you’re looking at it from below.

I had an hour left to get back to school for our evening activity, so I walked over to San Crispino, the gelato place Elizabeth Gilbert mentions it Eat, Pray, Love. No disrespect to the people at San Crispino, but this was an awfully small portion for 3,50 Euros!

You can barely even tell this is two different flavors!

You can barely even tell this is two different flavors!

Also, the gelato was covered up, so you couldn’t see what anything looked like. The flavors I had (honey and vanilla with bourbon) were fine, but not worth the extra price. I suspect they get a lot of business just based on Gilbert’s book. So far, I prefer Giolitti and Old Bridge for gelato.

Tonight at school we had their “tandem night.” Everyone put on a name tag with the languages they speak. Then we headed over to the area around Castel Sant’Angelo where there is a park-like setting and tents are set up to sell food. (Think neighborhood street fest if you’re from Chicago.) People bought beer and/or wine, and some of us also got some food (pizza, fries). Then those who were interested played at the free outdoor foosball and ping pong tables. I talked with my Polish friend Ela and a university professor from Belgium. Again, I can’t get over how incredibly international this school is. I met two sisters from Romania this evening and a young woman from Holland.

As we were sitting there enjoying our drinks and the beautiful evening (seriously, I’ve lucked out on weather; it’s been way cooler than you’d expect Rome to be in late July), I realized that we were basically in the same spot I stood in with some of my pilgrimage pals for the Canonization Mass. Howe funny that I was back in the same place but for something totally different!

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 8 (Una Buona Domenica)

I can’t believe my trip is more than half over now! Since today is Sunday, my day was all about popes and churches.

Before this April, I had never seen a pope in person despite three attempts to do so.

Attempt #1 was when I was about 4 or 5 and John Paul II came to Chicago. I was just old enough to realize this was a really big deal. Along with thousands and thousands of other people (many of them part of Chicago’s huge Polish population eager to greet the first pope from their country), my family and I waited along Milwaukee Avenue for the pope to arrive. We waited and waited and waited. I’m sure I must have asked my parents multiple times, “Is the Pope here yet?” as if we were on vacation and I was asking the typical “Are we there yet?”

Finally, the crowd gave a loud cheer. My father grabbed me and hoisted me up so I could see above the heads of the many Polish people in front of us. However, the Pope’s car sped by very fast. (We learned later that there had been a security threat a ways down the road before us, and the driver had decided it was better to go faster.) So there I was as my father attempted to hoist me up, but all I saw were the backs of people’s heads and their waving arms.

“Do you see him?” my mom asked.

“Where? Where?” I asked.

“There!” She pointed through the sea of waving arms, but I didn’t know just where to focus my attention, and the moment was over almost as soon as it began.

I had missed the pope. All that waiting, and he was gone like that.

I cried. I mean, really cried. I was terribly sad the rest of the day.

Even at night, as my parents put me to bed, I was still crying over missing the pope. So as my mom tucked me in that night, she took out a prayer card of John Paul II and placed it next to my pillow.

“Here, Amy,” she said. “The Pope’s all yours tonight.”

Attempt #2 was when I was teaching in a Catholic school. I’ll make a long story short. The principal took the seventh and eighth graders to see the pope in St. Louis. He meant to take the seventh and eighth grade religion teachers. I was the seventh grade religion teacher. A guy taught eighth grade religion. The principal forgot, somehow, that I taught seventh grade religion. He didn’t book a room for me. I stayed at school and had no one to teach for two days because the principal had taken all my students to see the pope. Without me.

Attempt #3 was my first trip to Rome in 2001. I thought I was sure to see the pope this time. The tour guide broke the bad news. The pope wasn’t feeling well. No pope today. :(

As I sat in St. Peter’s Square this morning awaiting the pope’s Angelus, it occurred to me that in the past four months I’ve had three pope sightings to make up for my three pope “misses.” I saw the pope in April when I was here for the Canonization Mass of John Paul II. I saw him last Sunday at the Angelus, just hours after I landed, and then I saw him again today at the Angelus.

Papa Francesco!

Papa Francesco!

The pope’s words today (at least the ones I could understand) were very meaningful and moving for me today, in ways that are way too difficult to type out on my little iPad mini here. I guess you’ll all just have to wait for my memoir. Ha! Ha!

After the Angelus, I went to 1:00 mass at St. Peter’s. I had the same priest as last Sunday. The 1:00 mass is held at the Altar of St. Joseph, and I stayed there to pray for a bit afterwards. Lots of amazing little things during that mass, but I guess I’ll save those for the memoir as well. :)

The Altar of St. Joseph in St. Peter's (not a bad place for Sunday masss)

The Altar of St. Joseph in St. Peter’s (not a bad place for Sunday masss)

After mass, I used some Italian to find the bathroom at St. Peter’s and then headed out for some gelato. (Lunch, anyone?) I was kind of hungry, so I used my good old Italian to get a large waffle cone with my favorite flavor, stracciatella. It was huge and immediately started dripping down in rivulets over the edge of the waffle cone, onto the paper wrapper, and right onto my hand. It didn’t seem to matter how quickly I licked up the sides or used my tiny plastic spoon to scoop it up. That gelato was determined to be a mess. I had planned to eat it while walking to the Metro, but the wind started blowing the ice cream in droplets right off my cone and onto my dress. Then my hair got whipped around and ended up in my mouth. When I tried to pull the hair out, it ended up in my ice cream. (Thank God, I’d just washed my hair before church!)

In short, it quickly became a complete mess. There was nothing for me to do but stop at the nearby Piazza del Risorgimento and eat my gelato without moving and letting the drips fall onto the grassy area over which I ate. Perhaps it was the fact that I had just come from church, but I got all philosophical over my ice cream cone. What’s the point of dripping gelato, Lord? Perhaps, a reminder that even the good things in life get a little messy from time to time, and it’s okay to take a moment and just let it be messy. You can always clean up afterward which is exactly what I did in a nearby fountain once I’d finished my lunch.

A Metro ride took me to the Santa Scala. These are the holy stairs Jesus walked up when he had to face Pontius Pilate. Now you might be thinking, “Um, I’m pretty sure Jesus did not go to Rome to face Pilate,” and you’d be right. St. Monica had the stairs moved from the Holy Land to Rome so that those who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land (like she did) could at least experience a piece of them.

The Scala Santa had been a stop on our pilgrimage in April, but I didn’t climb them then. You see, these marble stairs that Jesus climbed are now covered in wood with tiny slots through which you can see the marble. There are 26 of them, and you climb them on your knees, saying a different prayer on each step. They are located in a special building and surrounded by two walls.

When my pilgrimage group was here in April, all of Rome was overcrowded due to the big Canonization Mass. There was a long line to get in. Our tour guide said that he’d never seen it like that before. For those of us who didn’t want to wait, we could walk up these other stairs on the side and look down. I went inside and peaked down. The staircase, which normally has only 2-3 people lined up on each stair, was jam packed with 5-6 people across, squeezed together on each step.

I’m claustrophobic. Tight places (like MRIs) require medication. I’d brought some with me, but hadn’t taken it that morning because I hadn’t expected to need it. Also, I think I was feeling unworthy of being on those stairs. (That’s another long story I’ll save for the memoir. You’re all dying to read my imaginary memoir now, aren’t you?)

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But today! Yes, today, I prayed my way up on the Scala Santa on my knees. And God blessed me once again. When I arrived, there was a huge open space at the bottom of the stairs, so as I climbed my way up, there was no one in front of me for at least five steps.

The moment my knees hit the first step I started crying. Good tears. Tears of thankfulness for Jesus’s sacrifice for us. Tears of gratitude for my trip. An overwhelming sense of awe over being on the same steps Jesus walked up, bloody and beaten from his torture.

I won’t lie, my knees were killing me after only a few steps, and my bag (filled with things the pope had blessed at the Angelus) was heavy. I lugged it up each step in front of me, dragging my aching body, worn out from days of walking the streets of Rome, one wood-covered step at a time, offering up a different intention on each stair and alternating between Our Fathers and Hail Marys.

As I’m typing this, it’s already after 11:00 at night, and I have class tomorrow, so I’ll speed you through the rest of the day.

After the Scala Santa, I headed across the street to St. John Lateran, the “mother of all churches.” Recognize it? It’s currently the background of my Facebook photo.

St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran

Then down the street about 10 minutes to San Clemente, a very interesting church. The current church was built on top of a fourth century church, which was built on top of a first century Roman home. For 5 Euros, you can tour the lower levels on your own. Signs everywhere tell you not to take photos, but I snatched a couple because it was just too interesting not to share.

Fourth century church under the current church

Fourth century church under the current church

Another view of that fourth century church. Under it is a first-century home.

Another view of that fourth century church. Under it is a first-century home.

Then another short walk to San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains).

San Pietro in Vincoli

San Pietro in Vincoli

This church is known for two things. First, a statue of Moses by Michelangelo that was supposed to be put in a pope’s tomb, but that tomb never quite got finished.

Moses (with horns?) by Michelangelo

Moses (with horns?) by Michelangelo

And then the chains that held St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Rome.

The chains that held the imprisoned St. Peter

The chains that held the imprisoned St. Peter

The church closed at 7:00 p.m. I was there at the time. They rang some bells, and then a guy told everyone in English to please leave. Yep, that’s right. I closed a church tonight!

Rainy ride home tonight. Thankful for buses and the Metro!

One more thing: Remember that prayer card of John Paul II that my mom gave me when I was crying over missing him? I still have it. In fact, I brought it with me in April when I finally saw the pope for the first time, so it’s now been blessed by Pope Francis.

JP II Prayer Card

JP II Prayer Card

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 7 (Cooking Day)

So today was the big cooking day. If you’re looking for the recipes, just go straight here: http://www.fabiolouscookingday.com/our-recipes

We met in the Largo Torre di Argentina area, which is the place of the four Roman temple ruins I talked about on Wednesday. (Also, the place where Julius Caesar was killed, by the way.) I thought I was going to be late because I headed out of the apartment, only to realize it had just started raining and had to run back in to get the umbrella. By the time, I arrived at Largo Torre di Argentina, I was nearly out of breath, but I need not have worried.

Only one other woman was there. She was originally from Austria, currently lives in Australia, but has also lived in London and Japan. For the purpose of this post, let’s call her Ellie. Ellie and I hit it off right away. I found out later she has a daughter about 6 years younger than me (although she paid me the compliment of saying she thought I was her daughter’s age), so I think I kind of reminded her of her daughter.

Ellie and me with our teacher making a face in the background. Ellie and I bought the aprons after class. :)

Ellie and me with our teacher making a face in the background. Ellie and I bought the aprons after class. :)

She was also traveling alone, having just visited some old friends in her home country of Austria. Out of eight people who signed up for this class, we were the only two to arrive on time–and I just barely made it! The chef, Federico, greeted us and welcomed us into a nearby coffee shop to wait for the others. He also introduced us to his two assistants.

After twenty minutes, another couple finally arrived. An Israeli woman married to a Scottish man, who had lived in California but currently resided in Israel. At this point, Federico took us out to the market. He left one of his assistants behind to wait for the remaining four students.

Campo de Fiori (which means "field of flowers")

Campo de Fiori (which means “field of flowers”)

At the market we bought two kinds of fresh tomatoes: grape tomatoes and a larger kind they call casalino. Before we were done, Federico’s assistant had found three of the four missing students. They were a dad and his two teenage children. The eighth person never showed up. Got to admit it was a little shocking that none of the latecomers had called to say they would be late. We were all given Federico’s cell phone number ahead of time.

Fresh tomatoes at Camp de Fiori

Fresh tomatoes at Camp de Fiori

Anyway, next up we stopped at a cheese shop to pick up some fresh ricotta.

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And then finally a butcher to buy some veal (vitello).

The butcher shop

The butcher shop

Next we headed over to a private apartment that is used only for cooking classes and private parties.

The cooking studio/apartment

The cooking studio/apartment

Federico in the kitchen

Federico in the kitchen

We made three types of pasta. First was a zucchini ravioli. (My favorite of the three.)

Zucchini Ravioli

Zucchini Ravioli

Then we made fettucine with a fresh tomato sauce.

Fettucine with fresh tomato sauce (my second favorite dish of the day)

Fettucine with fresh tomato sauce (my second favorite dish of the day)

Then strozzapretti with mushrooms. (“Strozzapretti” means “choking priest” in Italian. Not sure if I even want to try to figure out what that one means.)

Strazzopretti with mushrooms

Strazzopretti with mushrooms

Then we made veal with a lemon sauce.

Veal with a lemon sauce

Veal with a lemon sauce

Finally, we had strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar with cane sugar and mint. We didn’t have to make that. We just enjoyed it!

Strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar with cane sugar and min (yummy)

Strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar with cane sugar and mint (yummy)

After class, Ellie and I spent the early part of the evening doing some shopping in the Spanish steps neighborhood. We had a great time together, and I feel blessed that God made the two of us end up in the same cooking class. Interestingly, we had both tried to get into a different cooking class first, but ended up in this one.

When we said good-bye tonight, she gave me a big hug, told me how much fun she’d had with me, and that she’d never forget me. There’s too much for me to explain in this blog post, but let’s just say I don’t think I’ll ever forget her either. Isn’t it amazing how God sends new friends into our lives just as we need them? I wonder what the “God of Surprises” as in store for me next.

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 6 (Ecumenism and Italian Jokes)

My blog title today refers to two separate things. Not that Italians are joking about ecumenism!

Before I get into the two topics in the title, a quick note about my Italian classes. Since classes change just about every week at my school, we had to say good-bye to three of my classmates today. Someone snatched a photo of the women from my class. Here we are: (from left to right, the German lady, me, the Australian girl, my Italian teacher, and the Swiss lady).

The ladies in my Italian class

The ladies in my Italian class

After class, I grabbed some gelato at a place that my Polish friend Ela recommended yesterday.

Strawberry and dark chocolate gelato

Strawberry and dark chocolate gelato

Then I headed back to the apartment for a short break. It had occurred to me that I’m almost halfway through my adventure, and I still haven’t seen some major sites, like Castel Sant’Angelo. I decided it was time to make a list of the remaining places to visit. By 3:00, I was ready to head back out again for the “ecumenical” part of my day.

I hopped on a bus and headed fairly far southeast of my apartment. First stop was the Protestant Cemetery, where the English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried. In Italian, the name of the cemetery is “Cimitero Acattolico,” which if we were to translate literally would be something like “not Catholic.” Kind of funny.

Protestant Cemetary

Protestant Cemetary

Keats is buried in a quiet corner of the cemetery.

John Keats

John Keats

Shelley is in the much more crowded section, way up at the top of a hill.

Shelley

Shelley

The cemetary is a beautiful spot and a nice break from the busyness of the city.

A 10-15 minute walk up some steep hills brought me to the Catholic part of my ecumenical afternoon. I visited the Piazza of the Knights of Malta. Some of you may know that I have started the application to become a Dame of Malta next year. In the piazza is the Order’s magistral villa.

Magistral Villa for the Order of Malta

Magistral Villa for the Order of Malta

Through the keyhole of the door, you can see into the gardens.

Keyhole

Keyhole

I couldn’t get my camera to focus really well, but if you look through the keyhole, you can see the dome of St. Peter’s perfectly framed through the trees in the garden. Cool fact: The Order of Malta is sovereign, so when you look through the keyhole, you are seeing three sovereign entities as the same time: the Order of Malta, Rome, and the Vatican.

I tried several times to get this photo to work. Just trust me that St. Peter's dome really is framed perfectly between these trees.

I tried several times to get this photo to work. Just trust me that St. Peter’s dome really is framed perfectly between these trees.

After that I visited two basilicas that are really close to each other.

San Alessio, where they were getting ready for a wedding:

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Santa Sabina:

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Then I headed back to school for a special evening class on the history of Italy’s unification. Again, it was all in Italian so I understood only pieces of it.

After that, I headed out for dinner and ended up at a wine bar, where I had some delicious pizza and wine. I put some Italian to use here, too. I think the waiter only said one thing to me in English, but I answered in Italian, so he used only Italian after that. :)

The table was along one of those cutesy narrow Roman roads, so I got to spend an hour people watching as I ate. When I was ready to go, I asked for “Il conto, per favore.” The waiter responded, “Certo!” (Certainly) However, he didn’t bring me the bill right away. Instead, he returned after a few minutes with a plate of biscotti and some limoncello. Perfetto! Okay, Mr. Waiter, I guess you can persuade me to sit her for another half hour while I enjoy my dessert! (Which was free, by the way!)

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After dinner, I went to St. Peter’s again. I sat around the obelisk and sipped from my water bottle as I watched the sun set. It occurred to me that I was doing what Elizabeth Gilbert had discussed in Eat, Pray, Love; namely, what the Italians call “il bel far niente.” (The beauty of doing nothing.)

Oh, but wait, I promised you Italian jokes!

The first happened near the Order of Malta. Nearby is a gift shop run by the Benedictines. I almost didn’t go in. It was a little out of the way, in a spot I wasn’t entirely sure I was supposed to enter. But something drew me near (God’s grace?) and I found in the gift shop something I’ve been looking for for a friend for a few days now. Good thing I stopped in or I might never have found it.

Anyway, the shop owner spoke to me only in Italian. At first, he was with some other customers and he said something to me about needing something. I think he needed to show the other customers something outside the shop because the three of them all walked out.

By the time he returned, I had found what I needed for my friend, plus another item. I stood waiting at the counter when he returned, and he said, “Prego,” and gave me a rather apologetic smile. I held up one item unsure of its price.

Me: Questo e cinque? (This is five?)
Him: Si.
Me: Questo e cinque anche? (This is five, too?)
Him: Si. (Then he laughed.) Tutti e cinque! (Everything is five!)

He waved his hand around the store, and I laughed with him, realizing I may have just enjoyed my first real, spontaneous joke in Italian.

The second joke came at the wine bar where I had dinner. The waiter’s shirts had the following written on the back:

La birra costa meno della benzina. Invece di guidare, bevi!

Yay, my second Italian joke of the day! The beer costs less than gas. Instead of driving, drink!

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 5 (Channeling Audrey Hepburn)

I did not realize at first that there are actually several Level 2 classes and books at the school. Another student pointed out the sequence of letters and numbers under the words “Livello 2″ on our books. So we’ve been working in Book A2/N3. Today, the teacher moved us into a new book, A2/N4. We hadn’t finished the last lesson in the previous book, and then she jumped us into lesson 3 in this next book! Yikes, we’re moving fast.

After class, I decided to visit a gelato place recommended by a friend of mine from back home. Along the way, I decided to see if a couple churches were open.

First up was Santa Maria dell’Anime. That’s right, another Mary church! This one, however, is the official German church in Rome.

Santa Maria dell'Anime

Santa Maria dell’Anime

According to my guide book, it was supposed to be closed, but the door was still open, and a family walked in, so I just followed them. It was a beautiful church. Not as huge as some of the others in Rome, but still very pretty. Standing in front of the altar, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. I’m not sure if it was just the appearance of the church (there are so many pretty ones in Rome!) or if it was the beauty of realizing once again the universality of the Catholic faith. Here I was standing in Rome in a German church. Recalling my high school German, I offered up an Our Father “auf Deutsch,” stumbling only a little over the words at the end. I’m sure Frau Meyer would’ve been proud nonetheless.

Interior of Santa Maria dell'Anime

Interior of Santa Maria dell’Anime

It occurred to me that I was having one of those encounters with God that I read about last night in Father James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. Fr. Martin talks about how God meets us where we are, in ways that we know how to encounter him. I guess since I’m a lover of languages, God met me there, in a church where I could’ve walked up to the guy at the entrance and spoken to him in three different languages (German, Italian, and English), and he probably would’ve understood all of them. And even if he didn’t understand me, we would still have the universal language of our faith to bind us.

Unfortunately, I could not stay long as they really were closing up for the afternoon. As the guy was ushering me out, I wanted to take a quick photo first. Which language to use to ask for permission?

German? Darf ich einen Foto nehmen?
Italian? Posso fare una foto?
English? May I take a photo?

When I turned to the guy, Italian came out naturally. He nodded his assent, and I snapped a quick photo before heading back out into the Italian sunshine, marveling yet again at the blessings I’ve received on this trip.

The second attempt to visit a church was not as successful. San Luigi dei Francesi (the French church in Rome) was already closed for their lunch break. Again, I marveled at the universality of our faith. A French church just steps from the German one. And again, I had to laugh at how God meets us where we are. Of course, he didn’t keep the French church open for me–I don’t speak French! But he did keep the German church open for me!

Finally, it was time to find “una geletaria” recommended by my friend. It wasn’t far from the churches but nestled into some narrow streets in Rome. I worried a bit about finding it, but it has its name in giant letters out front: GIOLITTI.

The place was busy, so I watched the operation for a bit and mused over the many flavors. You had to pay for your ice cream first at the cashier, then take your receipt to the gelato counter. For 2.50 Euro, you get a “small,” which actually includes two flavors of ice cream and whipped cream on top. The guy behind the counter gave a lot of instructions for people in basic English. They were not getting the idea of picking two flavors, and he was getting annoyed.

When my turn came, I had my order choice all ready.

Me: Limoncello e melone. (Limoncello and melon)
Gelato Guy: Perfetto. (Perfect!)

I’m not sure if he was complimenting my Italian pronunciation, my choice of flavors, or simply the fact that I understood I was to get two flavors. Either way, I was pleased when he asked me in Italian if I wanted whipped cream on top instead of just asking in English like he did for everyone else. I, of course, responded, “Si!”

Perfetto!

Perfetto!

I took my cone outside and stood near a shop window looking at some expensive Italian shoes while licking my gelato. I smiled when I caught my reflection in the window. I had inadvertantly been channeling Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There I was with my hair pulled up in a bun, giant sunglasses on my face, an ice cream cone in my hand, and looking wistfully in the window of an expensive shop. All I needed was a black dress and some fake pearls! And of course, someone to snap my photo to capture the moment.

As I headed back to the apartment, I crossed over Ponte Sant’Angelo while a film crew was shooting a scene on the bridge. I may have ended up as an extra in that scene, so I guess today was really my movie star day!

After some rosary shopping and grocery shopping (and yay for me, I figured out how to get the sticker to put on the fruit this time!), I headed home for a short rest and to recharge the phone.

At 5:00 P.M. I headed back to school to meet my new Polish friend Ela for a special pronunciation class. (Side note: Why is it I make Polish friends when I visit Rome?) After class, Ela showed me her favorite gelato spot near the school and then we wandered for a bit until we found a nice place for dinner. It was your typical cute Italian restaurant with outdoor seating right along the street, perfect for people watching. After we sat down, I looked across the street and realized we had picked the restaurant across the street from the German church I had visited that afternoon! God seems insistent of reminding me of His presence on this trip.

In typical Roman style, Ela and I chatted for a few hours after dinner, and the waiter let us sit there. We had to ask for the bill, which is totally typical in Rome. Once you have a table, it’s rather assumed that it’s yours for the night.

On my walk home, I passed St. Peter’s again. It really is quite magnificent at night.

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 4 (A Bus, a Train, and Two Mary’s)

Although this is my third time in Rome, I’ve only taken public transportation once before in this city. It was back in 2001 when my younger brother, my friend and I came on a tour. We arrived fairly early in the day, so we had several hours to kill before meeting up with our group for the welcome dinner. Why not go out and explore the city? According to our maps, the Colosseum didn’t look too far away.

Well, our maps were not the best, and if you’ve ever been to Rome, you know the streets aren’t nice and linear like they are in Chicago. So finding the Colosseum took a lot longer than we thought. By the time we got there, we had to turn around and head back. Somehow we got very lost–like couldn’t-find-ourselves-on-the-map kind of lost. We had the address of the hotel, but no one we asked spoke much English or even recognized our hotel’s name or street. I was beginning to think our hotel was imaginary.

Finally, we met a man who, although he didn’t speak English, took pity on three young Americans, got out a Metro map, and pointed out what routes to take. We had gotten so far from the hotel that we had to take one Metro line into the center of town (Termini) and then the other line back out in a different direction.

So far on this trip, I’ve been able to walk everywhere, but I wanted to see some churches farther east of my comfortable walking zone, so it was time to hit the bus. And I was determined not to get so lost this time!

In Rome, you buy bus tickets at newspaper stands or tobacco shops (yes, smoking is extremely prevalent here; even my sixty-something-year-old landlady/roommate Marcella likes a Cuban cigar now and then). So I bought one ticket (1.50 Euro) after class today. (By the way, today’s class was on reflexive pronouns. Being an English teacher sure does come in handy when learning a foreign language!)

The bus lines seem as confusing to me as the streets. Since there are no real straight thoroughfares through town, the buses weave all over the place, making it hard to remember what bus goes where.

Thankfully, I happened upon a little app that is making it much easier for me. The app is called Moovit. You tell it where you want to go, and it tells you what forms of public transportation you can take, including what time the next bus or train will arrive.

For example, from school today, I wanted to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels). It found my current location and then found the basilica after I typed in the name. It told me to walk to Piazza Chiasa Nuova (the square in front of the church next to the school), take bus 64 (and it gave me its approximate arrival time), how many stops to ride it, and what stop to get off. Plus how many more meters I would have to walk to get to the church. It even shows you a map while you are moving with an avatar-style icon (I chose the Italian girl avatar naturally) that follows you down the street. So I was able to watch my progress as I was riding the bus.

Santa Maria degli Angeli

I was surprised by how big and open this church was. It was built in the 1500s inside of some old Roman baths. The outside has been kept relatively simple.

Santa Maria degli Angeli

Santa Maria degli Angeli

The inside, however, was designed by Michelangelo. It’s in the shape of a giant Greek cross. In other words, the four sides of the cross are about equal in size. The church has many beautiful angel statues and paintings.

The main altar at Santa Maria degli Angeli

The main altar at Santa Maria degli Angeli

An angel greets you with holy water

An angel greets you with holy water

Another cool feature is the meridian line that was added to the church floor. At the right time of day (solar noon), the sunlight enters through a small window and falls on the floor, marking the time of the year.

The meridian line

The meridian line

After visiting this basilica, I decided to hit one more “Mary church.” This one was only a short walk away.

Santa Maria Maggiore

I had visited this church on my pilgrimage last April, but since it was so close and I still had a bit of time before my bus ticket expired (you got 100 minutes to ride as many buses as you want, plus one Metro ride), I decided to make a quick stop.

A slightly less crowded Santa Maria Maggiore

A slightly less crowded Santa Maria Maggiore

This is the church Pope Francis visits when he says he’s going to “go to the Madonna.” To the left of the main altar is a side chapel with a picture of the Blessed Mother above the chapel’s altar. This is where Pope Francis has prayed and left flowers for Mary. In April, we couldn’t get into this chapel because there was a mass going on, but today I was able to go in and pray a few decades of the rosary.

I would have liked to have stayed longer, but my bus ticket was running out of time and my phone was running out of battery (and I really needed that Moovit app to figure out how to get back home. Seriously, I don’t remember how we traveled before smart phones!)

Moovit told me to take the Metro; in other words, it was time to return to the subway train system I had first visited thirteen years ago. A short walk brought me to the Metro, and six stops later, I was a five-minute walk from my apartment.

In the evening, I attended the school’s free guided tour. The tour guide talked solely in Italian so I only understood about 10% at best, but it was a lovely night to walk around Rome.

We got to see Sant’Andrea della Valle, which is the church I got to lector in on the first night of my pilgrimage last April. It’s funny how you can notice things the second time that you didn’t see the first. For example, there’s an angel statue on the left top portion of the church, but there’s no matching angel on the right. I could understand enough of what the tour guide was saying to know she was talking about the missing angel, but I’m not exactly sure what happened. I think the Pope or whoever was commissioning the exterior construction didn’t like it so the second angel wasn’t added.

Sant'Andrea della Valle

Sant’Andrea della Valle

Also, inside the church, there was a mirror on a table so that you can study the artwork on the ceiling and in the cupola (dome) without having to strain your neck. Not sure if I just missed this last time or if it wasn’t there then.

Interior of Sant'Andrea della Valle

Interior of Sant’Andrea della Valle

Then we walked down the street as the tour guide pointed out a few more spots. Our walk ended at Largo di Torre Argentina, which I can best describe as the ruins where all the cats hang out. In the 1920s, the ruins of four temples were discovered here. They have now been fenced off and preserved, and a number of stray cats call it home.

Lago del Torre Argentina

Largo del Torre Argentina

For a somewhat late-night dinner (but really normal time by Rome standards), I took Marcella’s suggestion and went to a sandwich shop for un panino. Marcella swore they were some of the best panini at good prices (“economico”).

Marcella was right. This was one of the best sandwiches I ever had. And no, bird, you're not getting any.

Marcella was right. This was one of the best sandwiches I ever had. And no, bird, you’re not getting any.

When I found the place, I had to laugh. It’s called “Dal Papa” and is only a couple doors down from Ris Cafe where some of my pilgrimage buddies and I had drinks after dinner one night.

"Dal Papa" on the left;  the "famous" Ris Cafe on the right.

“Dal Papa” on the left; the “famous” Ris Cafe on the right.

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Speak, Pray, Cook – Day 3 (A Rainy Start Leads to a Great Finish)

Jet lag seems to be getting worse with age. Even two years ago, when I traveled with a friend to the U.K., the jet lag didn’t seem so bad. However, my pilgrimage last April and this return trip to Rome seem to be a different story. Last night, it took a long time for me to fall asleep again, and of course, I was dead asleep when the alarm went off at 7:30.

Since this was my second day of class, I had a full class session instead of a partial class like yesterday. When I walked into my level 2 class at 10:30 yesterday after receiving my placement, I was walking into a classroom that was already in session. Only the French guy and I were new. Everyone else in this class has been here for a while.

What I also failed to mention yesterday is that we’re on “lezione sette” (lesson 7) of the Level 2 book. In other words, they didn’t just put me in Level 2. They stuck me in the middle of the second level. I told the teacher today that listening is very hard for me, and she replied (or at least I think this is what she said) that I spoke very well and with the time in class and a roommate that only speaks Italian, I will get used to it. I hope so!

Yesterday, after class, I had a funny little conversation with the woman from Germany. It was a weird mixture of Italian, English, and German (which I studied in high school). Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Sei di Germania? (Italian for “You are from Germany?”)
Her: Si.
Me: Sie sprechen Deutsch? (German for “You speak German?”)
Her: Ja.
Me: Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch aber ich weiss nicht ob mein Deutsch ist besser als mein italianische? (My bad German translation for, “I speak a little German but I don’t know if my German is better than my Italian.)
Her: You speak Italian well. (I can’t remember what language she said it in, but I understood that’s what she meant.) Then she asked in Italian (I think?) how long I was staying.
Me: Due settimane. (Italian for “two weeks”) Und sie? (German for “And you?”)
Her: Funf wochen. (German for “Five weeks”)
But I had a little trouble hearing her, so she said, “Five weeks” in English.
Me: Oh, you speak a little English, too.
Her: Yes.
Worn out by my multilingual experience, I closed with the Italian “A domani.” (Until tomorrow.)
Her: A domani.

Today we spoke again, but mostly in English. The funny thing is that I found myself speaking English very slowly. Not sure if that was out of consideration for her, my sleepiness, or if I’m already forgetting my mother tongue!

Rain ruined my plans for the afternoon. I was planning on heading out to San Crispino, the gelato place mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love, but it was raining pretty hard when class got out, and it was too far of a walk to do in the cold rain. I tried to duck back into Chiesa Nuova again to wait out the rain, but it’s closed from noon until 4:00 or something like that. It appears a good number of churches close for a “siesta” in the afternoon, so that will alter some of my plans for the upcoming days.

The rain also ruined my lunch plans. I couldn’t even enter a sandwich shop because of it. The guy yelled at me (first in Italian and then in English) about bringing an umbrella in. (“No umbrella out!”) My umbrella was closed so I’m not sure what he expected me to do. Put my soaking wet umbrella in my bag? I also noticed his shop was empty, so maybe he was just a crank.

Back at the apartment, I had some of the food I bought yesterday. No need for a big lunch anyway. Tonight was a dinner for the students at the school. I had to pay for it separately, but it was a chance to talk (in Italian, of course) with other students.

Or at least, I thought it would be a chance to speak in Italian. While I did speak some Italian, it seems like all the students have at least some knowledge of English, and when they find out I’m an American, they are eager to practice. At dinner tonight, about 30 students from all different levels showed up. We met at the school, and before walking to the restaurant, the teacher had us introduce ourselves and what country we were from. Besides myself, the only other Americans were an elderly couple. (BTW, kudos to them for studying a language at their age!)

At dinner, I sat at a table with a guy from France, a woman from Germany, a girl from France, two young women from Russia, the Italian teacher, and a girl from Poland. The Russian girls spoke French so there were some French conversation, but mostly it was a mix of Italian and English. Eva, the Polish girl next to me, is just starting her Italian lessons, so she could offer little in Italian but was eager to try her English on me. I made sure to weave in a few Italian words so we could both practice.

We had a nice three-course meal:
-bruschetta and grilled zucchini for appetizers
-a choice of main courses (I had risotto con crema di scampi)
-un dolce (a dessert that I would guess was a semi-freddo [semi~frozen] because it was like ice cream on top of a very thin pineapple slice with some kind of sauce over it)

Overall, I had a good time talking with the students. Eva and I have made plans to meet each other again tomorrow for the next nightly “extra-curricular” activity planned by the school, which I believe is a guided tour of the neighborhood at night.

On the way home, I took a slight detour to capture evening photos of a couple old haunts. First, Castel Sant’Angelo at night:

I love how one of the angel statues from the bridge is silhouetted against the castle in this photo.

I love how one of the angel statues from the bridge is silhouetted against the castle in this photo.

And then a shot down Via della Conciliazione toward St. Peter’s:

St. Peter's at night

St. Peter’s at night

I’ve taken my ZzQuill, so hopefully, I’ll get some good sleep tonight.

A domani!

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