Two of my favorite things!

EMILY NESI & CHOCOLATE

I had been waiting for this weekend for some time now. A friendship that began in Italian class 6 years ago all came down to this one weekend. Emily’s arrival in Rome.

Emily and I have been friends for 6 years now. It all started in Signora Altherr’s Italian class at NVOT. Our friendship blossomed from there and this weekend we traveled together in Italy. No matter how much time passes between seeing each other, we pick up right where we left off. The last time we saw each other was in August when we were hanging out by the pool in her neighbor’s backyard reminiscing and talking about how crazy it was that we’d be in Italy together. I can’t say it enough, but this whole thing feels like a dream. I can distinctly remember us wishing we could go to Italy together and at the time we had no idea we would both be studying abroad and in Italy nonetheless.

She arrived on Thursday evening and I walked over to the Trevi Fountain to meet her. The fountain is currently closed for repairs and it looks so depressing. There is glass about 7 feet high surrounding the whole thing and you can’t even get close to it. And I found out this weekend that the Spanish Steps are also closed for repairs until next spring! I haven’t gone over there yet and I thought I would have time, but I guess I don’t now. My dream of eating gelato on the steps like Audrey Hepburn faded away very quickly. I will still go over there to see them, but it just won’t be the same. Emily got a little lost on her way to the fountain, but after a bit she suddenly appeared and we couldn’t have been happier to see each other. We made our way over to a restaurant named Baccano which was super nice and delicious, as has everything I have eaten in Italy so far has been delicious. We sat there for hours enjoying the food, the wine, and each other’s company. Before we knew it we were closing the restaurant! We then walked over to the Pantheon and then we walked back to her hotel. I was going to make the walk back to my apartment, but it was late and it would have taken me about 40 minutes so I took a cab. Better safe than sorry!!

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Saturday we both slept in and around 1:00 I walked over to Palazzo Montecitorio to meet her. It took a little while for me to find her because there was something going on in that area that day, but I finally found her! We decided we were going to explore the Borghese Garden and we did just that! The Borghese Garden is a little slice of paradise in the middle of Rome. As I have said in previous blog posts, I really miss seeing grass so whenever I see it, it’s always nice. We sat on a bench to take a break from all the walking and we noticed a bunch of people riding two- person bikes. The friendship Emily and I have is more of a laid back one and we don’t take many chances, but when we do they usually turn out pretty well. With that being said, we found ourselves walking up to the stand to rent one of the bikes. There was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning. The bike had two sets of pedals and two steering wheels, but only one person could pedal at a time and the second steering wheel wasn’t even connected to anything. We had a lovely ride around the gardens and saw most of it even though we went in the same loop about four times. For 10 euros, it was worth it! Around 5:00 we decided we were hungry so we ventured over to Via Veneto and found a place to eat. Via Veneto is a very upscale road/area in Rome where all of the fancy hotels and restaurants are, so the prices for everything are a bit high in order to trap the tourists. If we were closer to my neighborhood I could think of about 10 different, cheap, but delicious restaurants we could have eaten at, but we had a delicious meal regardless. After dinner we walked back to my apartment to pick up my stuff so I could stay the night at the hotel with her. It was nice to be able to show her the place I have called home for the past 2 months. On the way to her hotel, we walked past St. Peter’s, Castel Sant Angelo, and Piazza Navona which are always really pretty at night.

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On Saturday we were up bright and early to catch a train to Perugia. Waking up at 7:00 was a little difficult considering we were up until 4:00 catching up and talking about nothing in particular. Train tickets were purchased and we hopped on the train. I slept most of the ride and before I knew it we had to switch trains and get on the local one that went to Perugia. The region of Umbria is so beautiful and on the ride we got to see Assisi through the window. All of the villages are nestled into the hills and each is different. We passed Assisi and were able to see the huge chapel dedicated to St. Francis. Soon the train pulled into Perugia and we jumped on a small trolley called the MiniMetro and headed up the side of the hill to the center of town. We followed the crowd, which ended up being a mistake. The crowd we were following went into a church which wasn’t bad, but it was not exactly where we wanted to be. So, we turned around and soon enough we were in the right place. We were both hungry so we decided to eat at a restaurant that was underground. After lunch we headed back above ground to begin our chocolate adventure! To say it was crowded was an understatement. I usually have a lot of patience for people, but it was getting close to 2 pm and I still hadn’t had any chocolate yet, so my patience was running thin. In the distance, we saw the main attraction, the Guinness World record holding CHOCOLATE MUSTACHE. Of course we got a picture with it….

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With the ‘stache

After the photo-op we began to walk around the festival. We purchased chococards which we had to bring to certain stands in order to get a free piece of chocolate or some other sweet treat. As we were walking around I spotted a sign that said “PANORAMIC VIEW THIS WAY”. My curiosity took over and Emily and I followed the signs to one of the most beautiful views I have seen here in Italy. The views on the Amalfi Coast and in Perugia cannot be compared because they are in two different parts of the country.

What a view!
What a view!

After taking in the view we began to visit the stands on our chococards. One of the stands called “Ciobar” gave out what tasted like pudding, but it was hot and in liquid form. Other stops included Lindt, Riccola, Pernigotti, and a few other Italy exclusive companies. We had such an amazing day chocolate-filled day that by the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted. Around 8:30 we headed down to the hotel restaurant to get something to eat. Once again, the restaurant was a little fancy, but we just went along with it and enjoyed eating higher quality food. The dessert of the weekend was tiramisu considering we ate it every night so we were hoping the restaurant would have it, but they were out so we got a slice of blueberry pie to split. It wasn’t nearly as good as tiramisu, but we were satisfied. After dinner, we headed back up to the room and facetimed with her mom for a bit before we headed to bed. I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life. Once my head hit the pillow, I was out.

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We woke up early again on Sunday because Emily had a plane to catch and I had to get back to real life. It was hard to say goodbye, but I’ll see her again in a few weeks in Sicily. The whole weekend seemed like a dream and a week later it still seems like it didn’t happen. I can’t wait to get to Sicily and climb Mount Etna and experience all it has to offer! But, first I have an essay to write…

Next stop: WHO KNOWS?

XOXO

Maryrome

Cheers!
Cheers!
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Chocolate covered waffle
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Early morning train selfie…

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Familiar Faces in Firenze…

Sorry for the radio silence recently! I’ve been busy with traveling and midterms, but I’m done with the stress of midterms (for now) so I finally have a chance to sit down and write!!

Last weekend, I made the trip up to Firenze to see the Marywood architecture students that are studying there. I hopped in a cab to Termini, then on a Frecciarossa train, and in a mere hour and fifteen minutes I was in Firenze! I had rented an AirBnB for the weekend, which was super nice and not too far from the center of the city. I think AirBnBs are the way to go now. They are usually much cheaper than hotels and sometimes the same price as a hostel and they are much nicer. Around 5:00 I met my friend Ben in front of Santa Maria Novella Church and it was so nice to see a familiar face for the first time in 6 weeks. Making new friends has been great (and challenging), but there is such a comfort in seeing someone who you haven’t just met and has known you for more than a month. He showed me around and I’m still amazed at how different Rome and Florence are. I saw all of the major sites in one evening and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. I’ve been in Rome for a month and there a still places I have yet to see. We were wandering around and then all of the sudden the Duomo appeared out of nowhere! I gasped and said “wow” out loud when I saw it. One minute we were walking down a side street and the next, we turned the corner and it was right there! 12132403_10208020886499927_9207472339885722992_o Ben mentioned to me how you can pretty much see the dome from anywhere in Florence. The details on the outside of the Duomo are simply amazing. It might be one of my favorite buildings I’ve seen so far, besides the Vatican. We got dinner and headed back to his apartment to visit with the other guys. It was so odd to see them all together in a different country. I’m so used to seeing them on campus or doing work in the architecture building so they seem out of place, but it was so nice to see them all. Unfortunately it rained all day Saturday so I didn’t get to see much of the city because, as I have learned, Italians do not go out when it rains. I was able to get some studying done and they got some of their architecture stuff done so it wasn’t like the day was totally wasted. Around 4:00, I met up with Ben, Matt, and Joe to grab sandwiches at Al’ Antico Vinaio. They have all been raving about this place and now I see why. The sandwiches are huge and only 5 euro! It took me a while to finish mine. It had ham, ricotta cheese, zucchini, and artichokes on it and it was delicious. We went to a pub in the evening and then walked over to Il Porcellino. Il Porcellino is the bronze boar statue and the legend is if you rub its nose and put a euro in it’s mouth, and the euro falls into the grate below, you will return to Florence. Well my euro didn’t fall into the grate, so I guess I’ll never go back! 😦 I hope that doesn’t happen though because I LOVED it there. I felt more at home there than I do in Rome.

Il Duomo at night
Il Duomo at night
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The ceiling of the Duomo
The view from our seats
The view from our seats

On Sunday I went to mass at the Duomo with my friend Joe. I couldn’t go to Florence without seeing the inside of it, so what better way to see it then mass! The mass was said in Latin and as usual it was beautiful. We sat very close to the altar and was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Yet another thing I can check off my bucket list! I was sad to leave them, but I had a great weekend. Ben was a great tour guide and it was so nice to see them all. I can’t wait until they come to Rome so I can show them around!

Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio
Ben & I
Ben & I

Next stop: EMILY COMES TO TOWN & PERUGIA FOR THE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL!

XOXO

Maryrome

You never know…

My roommates went off to Barcelona for the weekend and I was left with the apartment all to myself! It was nice on Thursday, but the whole building was very lonely on Friday because it seemed like everyone had travel plans for the weekend. I stayed in on Friday because it rained for most of the day and Italians don’t leave their houses when it rains. I decided to FaceTime my friend Gabby who is currently studying abroad in London and we talked for about 3 hours! It’s so weird that we are both in Europe, but not in the same place like we always are. We planned out two trips; one to Paris and one to Brussels for Thanksgiving and I couldn’t be more excited. How many people get to travel with their best friend?!

On Saturday I decided to go to mass at the Pantheon, because once again how many people get the chance to do that!? I walked over there around 4:00 and it was packed with tourists so I sat down on one of the benches and waited for the mass to begin. Probably 10 minutes before it started two men from China sat down next to me and one asked to take a selfie with me, so I cautiously said yes and now there is a picture of me and some random guy on his phone and probably some social media outlet. The Pantheon closes to visitors for an hour while mass is being said. You can stay of course if you want to participate in the mass, but to cut down on noise and foot traffic they usher everyone else out. The mass was said in both Italian and English which was really nice.

High altar
High altar
The oculus
The oculus

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Outside of the Pantheon
Outside of the Pantheon

After mass I decided to wander around a bit. I wouldn’t say I got lost, but on my way back I stumbled upon Piazza Navona, which I had been to before, but never in the daylight. There were a bunch of street performers there and as always people trying to sell you selfie sticks. DSC_0747After taking a few pictures of the beautiful fountains I decided it was time to find something to eat and then head back to the apartment. All I needed to do was find the river and I could figure out my way from there. Well I found the river but I was a little further down than I thought and ended up crossing the one that leads to the Vatican. Seeing as I had no plans for the evening I decided to walk over there and see if I could get some more shots of St. Peter’s at night. I think that might be my favorite place in Rome. As I was walking down Via della Conciliazione I saw a crowd in the distance in the square and could hear singing. I figured the Pope wasn’t there because it was a Saturday and he makes his appearances on Wednesdays and Sundays, but I was wrong. I walked up to the barricade and on the screen was the Pope! At first I thought it was a vigil mass, but as it turns out it was a prayer service for the synod of bishops that was to meet the next day. There were Vatican Police standing at one of the entrances and I wasn’t sure if I needed a ticket to walk onto the square, but I didn’t and found a good spot and just watched. It was an amazing experience and if I didn’t end up further down the river, I wouldn’t have walked over to the Vatican. As I always say, everything happens for a reason…

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Not a good picture but the white blob is Francis!
Not a good picture but the white blob is Francis!

Next stop: FIRENZE!

XOXO

Maryrome