Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Looking back on the blogs I have done over the course of this seven week semester, I am glad that I chose the three themes of bars, Santa Maria in Cappella, and the combination of old and new. These three topics gave me another lens through which to see my experiences in Italy. I wanted to choose themes that I would encounter every day, which I definitely did.

Before we left for Rome, Dr. Benson encouraged us during our orientation meeting to try the different coffee in bars, and find a place that we like to go to regularly. I imagined doing this in the mornings before class, and ended up frequenting Caffe Brasiliano, right down the road from our classroom. I decided that I like cappuccino the best, then, after sampling it at many different bars, decided that Caffe Brasiliano had the best. And, the location could not have been more convenient. Stopping in at a bar is an essential part of a day in Italy to experience the coffee, as well as the people around you.

I made sure to notice little things in our neighborhood, Santa Maria in Cappella, which would be interesting to do blog posts about. Our apartment and surrounding streets and buildings is the quintessential Italian neighborhood, but the beauty is hard to describe without actually seeing it for yourself. With my posts, I tried to highlight special parts of the neighborhood, like the history of our building, the local grocery market, and my favorite restaurant, to paint a picture for readers of the place where we live.

Combining old and new was probably my broadest theme, and was the one that I noticed everywhere in the city. Every day I could not believe that I was living in Rome, one of the most ancient cities in the world. Everything that I see around me has been built up over time, with a rich history behind it. Modern life exists within this historical place, causing a continual transition from old to new. The past is always combined with the present.

Organizing my thoughts and experiences into blogs not only gave me extra incentive to notice specific things day to day, but also gave me the opportunity to organize these thoughts and experiences. I know I can look back on my blog and have clearer memories of this wonderful city and my time here.

Saying Goodbye to Santa Maria in Cappella

I am truly going to miss coming home to Santa Maria in Cappella every day. The sun shining on the trees and flowers in the courtyard when I come home in the evening from a long day in the city is an image that I will never forget. I like saying “ciao” to the doorman every time I leave and come back. It was so convenient of being able to walk down the street to the grocery store, go get gelato, or have dinner at a great restaurant, in one of the most enviable neighborhoods in the entire city. Romans could not believe that I live in Trastevere as a student, and the amazement in their expressions made me that much more appreciative to live here.

I will always have vivid memories of our apartment and our neighborhood after having spent seven weeks here. It really did start to feel like home, especially during the last few weeks. Even though seven weeks is a short time, I will remember Santa Maria in Cappella as a place where I felt comfortable and familiar. Before coming here, I never thought that I would ever feel this way in a foreign city, and I am so glad that I had this experience.

The Last of My Favorite Cappuccino

Today was our last day of class, and the last time I will walk past Caffé Brasiliano, right down the street. As usual, I was so hot from walking by the time I got there, but I had a few minutes to spare before class started, so I went in to get breakfast one last time. I was surprised to see a few of the locals that frequent the caffé in the morning, so I guess the heat does not deter them from having coffee regularly. Even so, it was just too hot to get a cappuccino, but I got a delicious croissant with chocolate instead.
But, when our mid-class break came, I could not resist. I went back to the caffé and got my cappuccino. It was just a delicious as usual, and I enjoyed every sip. The ritual of having a daily cappuccino is something I will really miss when I am home.

Cobble Stone Sidewalks

(A cobble stone street in Trastevere)
As I walk down the many cobble stone streets and sidewalks all over Rome, I cannot imagine how many other people have walked there before me. The same, dark gray stones are used for every path, and they are smooth and worn down. On the first day we arrived, we got out of the taxi beside our apartment with our luggage. As I dragged my heavy, rolling suitcase across the stones I thought how impractical they are for sidewalks and streets. It took a little while to get used to walking on them. Italians seem to have no problem walking on the cobble stones, even in high heels. They even expertly handle bicycles, though riding a bike over a bumpy path does not look that comfortable. I was so impressed with myself that I had not fallen once on these uneven streets, even with all the rain we had. I have slipped and slid around plenty of times, but never took a major spill.
On Monday, my luck changed. I was walking downhill on the cobble stone sidewalk around the Forum, on the way to the Colosseum, where the path wraps around to the right. As I walked along chatting, my flip flop caught on a stone, sending me flying forward. I landed on the sidewalk hard, especially since the fall was downhill. Needless to say, I was mortified. I quickly got up and tried to brush it off, though my hands and my knee really, really hurt. The tourists around me stared and a policeman across the street yelled, “are you O.K.??”, causing me to be even more embarrassed.
Now I completely understand why Italians do not wear flip flops. I guess after walking these cobble stone streets for years, they know the appropriate footwear, though I am sure they take a spill every once in a while.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Santa Maria Spy

During my entire stay here, I have felt comfortable and at-home living in Santa Maria in Cappella. The quiet atmosphere, beautiful courtyard, and friendly doormen make our living situation very pleasant and feel very safe (not to mention we have to go through three locked doors to get inside our apartment). However, it has been somewhat uncomfortable lately, due to one of the residents of the hospice across the courtyard from us. One night, two girls from Ohio State who live on the first floor came up to our apartment on the third floor. They informed us that a resident has been spying on our apartments with binoculars from across the courtyard, and sometimes filming with a video camera. Another resident was kind enough to tell the girls this, speaking only a little English while motioning spying with binoculars and filming. After getting this information, a couple girls realized that they had seen a man looking over here on occasion. In the past few days, some have even caught him in the act of spying! This man does not seem dangerous, and, chances are, someone is looking after him in the hospice. Even so, I told our landlord. She thought this story was amusing and assured us that he is just an older man, living in hospice care, and could not be dangerous. The next group to live here will probably have new curtains, she said. But, in the meantime, I do not feel quite as comfortable as I have felt living here.

Hot Weather and Hot Coffee

Finally, after what has seemed like non-stop rain, Rome is scorching hot. I have been waiting to experience the infamous Roman summer heat, and now, it is here in full force. I will gladly take hot weather over rain any day, but the heat does come with some drawbacks when living in a city. For example, the fifteen to twenty minute walk to school at 8:30a.m. has sometimes been chilly, especially during the first few weeks. Normally, I would wear a sweatshirt or scarf. Then, particularly when it was raining, I would enjoy stepping into a bar before class to get a warm cappuccino. I love the ritual of getting a cappuccino every morning, especially at my favorite place, Caffe Basiliano. This intense heat over the past week and a half has completely disrupted my morning bar routine. I swear that the heat makes the walk to class longer, as we drag our feet and try to stay on the shady side of the street. There is not normally enough time to stop and get breakfast, even if I wanted to. The worst part is that I have no desire for hot coffee before class after I am already overheated from walking. I miss my morning cappuccino, and Caffe Brasiliano, but overheating just is not worth it. If only I could get an iced-cappuccino!

Follow-up on San Luigi dei Francesi

Last week, I posted about the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, where three famous Caravaggio paintings hang in one of the chapels. After visiting the Piazza Scala today, I had the perfect opportunity to visit the church, which was a short walk away. Unfortunately, I forgot my guidebook and went to find the church by myself. I could not remember the street name, but knew that it was about a block away from Piazza Navona. After asking two police officers (who gave me conflicting directions) and an American tourist, I found the church.
The nave of the church is roped off, so I strolled down the aisle to the right of the altar first, looking at the five chapels on the side. I circled back to the entrance, then down the aisle to the left of the altar. The three Caravaggio paintings are in the last chapel on the left, and I wanted to save the best for last. The rest of the church was beautiful, but I had my mind set on seeing these paintings.
I caught a glimpse of The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew first, as it hangs on the right wall of the chapel. As I got closer, I could see this painting as well as St. Matthew and the Angel and The Calling of Saint Matthew all at once. I have studies these paintings extensively in art history class, and I was completely impressed with them in real life. The colors are vivid, and the paintings’ placement next to each other makes them look even bolder.
I would definitely recommend seeing this church and these three paintings. Even if it is just a detour from visiting Piazza Navona, a quick stop inside is worth it.