Calcio Coming to a Close

Last night were the last calcio matches of the season! My team, Viola, made it to the semifinals and we played Rosa (pink) and lost. Although we were disappointed, the game was a lot of fun to play and we definitely ‘left it all on the field’. When I found out about JFRC’s intramural soccer league, I laughed at the idea of ever playing. My family is a baseball, football and volleyball family; far from soccer or any form of it. I reluctantly signed up as an effort to meet new people, stay active and see if soccer may actually be something I would enjoy! When I first told my dad he laughed for a good minute or two because he didn’t believe me. Then when he pictured me playing, another round of laughter ensued. Little did we both know that I wasn’t actually half bad at the sport (not exactly good either) but definitely able to kick the ball when it came to me.    The season flew by, maybe because I was injured on two separate occasions with both my ankles sprained, and I missed two weeks due to bronchitis, but Viola had its triumphs without me and led us to the finals! I am excited to play next semester.

In Italy, soccer on Wednesdays is ritualistic. Where I’m from, religion on Wednesday nights is the equivalent to calcio for Italian men here. All the fields are full of both young and old Italians playing a pick-up game, or competitively practicing for their leagues. It’s their form of religion. The women don’t play, which I find very interesting but I guess that’s another cultural difference between the states and here.

Overall, the final week of calcio made me think a lot about not only Italian culture, but also about my past four months in Rome at the John Felice Rome Center. I have already learned so much about Italy -Rome in particular- I have learned a lot from my professors and fellow classmates, and I have learned a lot about myself. Independently traveling has given me the opportunity to grow and reflect on my life and  in ways that I never have before. I am an avid writer and love to keep a journal especially when I’m traveling, but even considering how therapeutic writing has been in the past for me, hasn’t compared to spending this amount of time abroad on my own. As I start to pack for returning home for winter break, I fill my suitcase with tokens of my travels thus far, and already am excited to return in January –hopefully with an emptier suitcase- ready to fill it up again with another four months worth of memories.

Calcio semi-finals!

Forza Viola!

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An Austrian Adventure

Vienna and Salzburg (November 14th-17th)

I decided to do a little writing on the train back to Vienna from Salzburg. There’s nothing quite like riding on the train through the mountains in Austria and getting the urge to write about it. I used to write a lot more when I was younger, but lost motivation during my teenage years. I would say that this counts for some pretty incredible inspiration to start writing again. The weekend started in Vienna with Emily and Kiara and because we booked our flights in August, I failed to realize that my return flight was at 5am (rookie mistake). I decided to spend the extra money and prolong my trip by booking a new flight home for late Monday night. By Sunday, we had seen what we wanted to see in Vienna and I was looking into taking a day trip out of the city. Kiara and Emily’s flight took off late Sunday afternoon and I was left with the next two days to myself.

For my entire life my mom has raved about her time in Salzburg, and it being her most favorite European city. I looked into train times and tickets and got on the 5am train this morning to Salzburg. Although there was so much beauty in Vienna, my favorite part of this weekend was Salzburg. I didn’t know that much about the city, so I talked to some of the people I met at my hostel in Vienna before leaving and got a decent list of places to visit.

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In the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

When I got off the train in Salzburg, the city was still asleep, and I think so was I. With no map and a brisk 30-degree walk ahead of me, I headed out of the station and chose a direction. Luckily, it was towards the river and I soon saw the steeple of the duomo off in the distance, along with the Hohensalzburg Fortress looming over the city and I knew right where I wanted to be.

View during my walk into the historic downtown

View during my walk into the historic downtown Salzburg

As I watched children being led by their parents to school, bakeries opening their doors with the smell of fresh pastries wafting through the air, and an old man throw bread for some birds on a park bench, I was already falling in love with the city. It wasn’t even 9am and I had already crossed the country into an entirely new city that was so different than Vienna; this was the Austria that I was expecting. I had talked to my aunt the previous evening over text and she told me that I must take the funicular up the hill to the fortress and that the views would be so rewarding. So, I bit the bullet and paid for the slightly expensive ticket. Once I got to the top, I had no regrets. The castle was surrounded by a small medieval town on the hill, and since it was so early there was no one around except me, some workers and a younger couple (also tourists). There was small Christmas market huts being assembled at the gates of the fortress, and on the other side was a small cafe where I took the panorama picture included below.

View from the Fortress

View from the Fortress

Once I descended from the hill, the city had awoken and I was ready to see more. This was one of my first times traveling on my own and I loved doing whatever I wanted all day (lots of Austrian pastries and walking were involved). I watched the locals set up the annual Christmas markets, as I wrote some postcards. I went to Mozart’s birthplace and residence, saw his little violin and piano and listened to his music. I got to see the Mirabell Gardens, and palace where scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed. I’m so glad I was finally able to see the city my mom constantly talked about even 35 years after her visit. Maybe I’ll be telling this story to my kids in the future, but hopefully I’ll be able to take them here myself because what better way to learn about the world than to see it firsthand.  Although my mom couldn’t give my brother’s and I that opportunity herself, I was glad to have done it on my own.

The steps where part of Sound of Music was filmed!

The steps where part of Sound of Music was filmed!

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Oh the places you’ll go

This weekend I found a new love, in the form of a beautiful city…shonnbrunn

annaVienna – the capital of Austria, a city that speaks a language I understand, that has busses that run on time, and the home of Sigmund Freud. Christmas markets, Wiener schnitzel, glühwein, bratwurst, sachertorte and kürbis suppe, a familiar taste of home, in a city that I had never visited before.

Growing up in Germany has given me a rather hoity-toity perspective on how Christmas should truly be celebrated; evenings should be kiarafilled with warm mugs of apple cider whilst wandering through markets, hoping to find that perfect present for someone special. Fortunately, Vienna had numerous markets and plenty of traditional Austrian-German meals that Kiara, Anna and I could enjoy during our three-day stay in the bustling city. Our evenings were in fact filled with window shopping and exploring, all the while breathing in the delicious scent of Christmas, pine trees and cookies.

emilyAustrian delicacies weren’t the only taste of home we received during our visit to the capital; Starbucks and Cinnabon were a pleasant reminder of America, and a these coffee-cinnamon-roll stops gave us a much needed break from the freezing wind that surrounded us during our strolls through the streets.

After walking the streets we headed over to the older avenues of Vienna and toured the Sigmund Freud museum. We spent the next beautiful morning exploring the local fresh food market and having a picnic at the famous Schönnbrunn Schloss. The gardens were stunning and provided a great atmosphere for a few photo ops! Anna, Kiara and I spent our fair share of time admiring the Neptune statue and the arches built near the end of the property!

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A highlight of the trip happened to be the front row seat I had at a concert on Saturday onerpubnight! One Republic and The Kongos have been touring Europe these past months, and these two personal favorites “just so happened” to be in Vienna the exact dates we were! (Not much of a coincidence actually. Arrangements to attend the concert had been made before us Rome Starters even arrived on campus in August!) Despite missing out on some exploring time with Anna and Kiara, I made sure to arrive at the venue hours in advance, and my dedication paid off; my ticket was upgraded and I had a front row view!

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Of course, no trip would complete without some shenanigans! Anna had some trouble with her plane ticket and ended up staying an additional day in Austria! She made her way to Salzburg and experienced the lively hood of the hills (Sound of Music reference…get it?)! Kiara and I left on Sunday night and got to sit behind the airport desk in order to charge our cell phones! Naturally this called for a secretly taken photo!

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An American in Paris

November 7th-10th

This past weekend I traveled to Paris, France with Alejandra! We both have been there before so we planned on a leisurely weekend strolling down the Champs-Elysees drinking hot chocolate and eating Lauduree macaroons. Although we did both, we actually did quite a bit else. Friday was a little rainy and very cloudy so when we landed in the morning we headed right to the Louvre. After fighting through the usual crowd of people surrounding the Mona Lisa, searching for Hammurabi’s Law Code for far too long and marveling at the beauty of Aphrodite, we left in search of crepes: the first of many. Crepes in hand we walked along the Seine, stopped at the famous lock bridge and headed to Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter for dinner.

loving the Louvre

loving the Louvre

After dinner –Greek food- we went to the Eiffel Tower and sat staring at it for at least an hour. It’s pretty incredible to go from touring St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday morning to standing under the Eiffel Tower by Friday night. Saturday we toured the Palace of Versailles and marveled at my favorite room in the world: The Hall of Mirrors. We walked through the main street of the town and bought food from the market and ate on the train on the way back into the city. Once we got back into the city, we went to Musee d’Orsay, the top of the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur, and Moulin Rouge, then spent the evening on the Champs-Elysees. The first time I went to Paris was 5 years ago with my family and with my infamous awful memory, I had remembered little from the trip. When I first came to Rome I didn’t think I would go back to Paris because I had already been, but Alejandra and I found cheap tickets and I wanted to refresh my memory the best way possible. I definitely experienced a Paris I hadn’t been able to at age thirteen.

On Sunday we woke up early again and went to Bastille Market, which is huge, and it’s a lot of fun to interact with the people there. Even though they proceeded to speak fast, fluent, French while I struggled to recall even the numbers from my four years (yes, four) of French, they were so kind and definitely know how to make good pastries. We bought food for lunch and with baguettes in our purses we headed to Notre Dame for Sunday morning mass. On our way we passed Sainte Chappelle –famous for their incredible stained glass windows- and since our admission everywhere was free with our Italian I.D’s, we went in for a quick visit before mass. 

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

After church we rented bikes and went to the Luxembourg Gardens to people watch and breathe in the crisp fall air. We soon learned that it is forbidden to ride bikes through the park but you could walk next to the bike, so we did that. Rome has been a little behind in the fall weather department so it was awesome to see true fall colors and in Paris nonetheless! We biked around the area, Montparnasse, after the park until we found ourselves at this cute hole-in-the-wall French restaurant. The kitchen was smaller than my dorm room back on campus and you could watch them cook from your table. I’ve learned that those kind of places usually have really great food, and before I knew it my hypothesis was confirmed and we indulged in French food that I couldn’t spell even if I tried. We had crème brûlée for dessert.

We toasted to an incredible Parisian weekend and headed back for the night because we had to wake up at 3am… ouch…for our 7am flight in order to make it to class at 10am. Other than waking up at that brutal hour of the morning, the trip was incredible and I now have dozens of new memories of Paris to now (hopefully) hold onto.

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A Grecian Getaway

Greece Study Trip: 10/10-10/19

Ten days in Classical Greece was the best trip I have ever taken. We were blessed with phenomenal weather, incredible sites, and an exceptional educational opportunity filled with even better company. The trip began with three days in Athens where we saw the Acropolis in its glory both at night and during the day. The view from the top made it somewhere we never wanted to leave.

The Parthenon, Athens

The Parthenon, Athens

Our first night, we toured the National Archeological Museum and began learning a few words in Greek. The three days we spent in Athens flew by full of amazing new foods and lots of history during our introduction to Greek culture. Our next stop was Delphi where we got to see the temple of Apollo. The views over the Gulf of Itea were incredible from the temple. Arahova was where we stayed and also where we climbed almost 400 stairs to another wonderful meal together. Every meal we shared was in restaurants that had very personal connections to Ioanna. Wherever we went, the owners greeted her with such love and compassion; it was truly amazing. They expressed their generosity through their best wines and kind hospitality that rivaled anything I’ve seen before. We left Delphi for Nafplio, which was my favorite city that we visited in Greece. We climbed 999 stairs up to a castle overlooking the town and got to practice our Italian with a Roman family who owned a gelateria. I loved the layered history within the city limits of Nafplio. We stopped in Mycenae, Sparta, Mystras and Corinth over the next few days. Since our bus ride to Sparta was approximately the length of the infamous film, 300, we decided to watch it on our way there. We pulled into the city right as the credits rolled, and jumped off the bus to take a group photo with Leonidas. This had to have been one of the highlights of the trip for me because of the impeccable timing, and being able to put it into perspective just as I was able to do in Pompeii last month. Following Sparta, we concluded the trip by taking a ferry to Mykonos for the last three days.

The whole group in Sparta at a monument for Leonidas

The whole group in Sparta at a monument for Leonidas

This was certainly the most relaxing part of the trip, as its highlights were having local specialties in Little Venice, and wandering the streets for hours as we window-shopped on our way to our last meal together Saturday night. Right on the edge of the ocean, we danced the night away and celebrated a truly magical week in the most beautiful country.

Sunset from our Hotel Poseidon, our last night in Mykonos

Sunset from our Hotel Poseidon, our last night in Mykonos

I want to say a special thank you to the Forza Roma scholarship committee for making this trip possible for not only me, but also a number of other students. JFRC alumni do a lot for this community and I wouldn’t have been able to have had these experiences without their support.

ef̱charistó̱ ~ thank you!

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We Run for Hunger

Since 2006 thousands of individuals have gathered together in Rome to raise money and awareness about world hunger. There are hundreds of millions of people throughout the world that are starving or malnourished, and by raising awareness the UN is able to help combat that astounding number and provide aid to countries whose poverty level is extremely high.

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On October 19th, the JFRC had twenty-four students, two of which were Rome starters, participating in this run. The roads around the historic city centre were blocked off for the thousands of individuals who would be racing through the streets starting at 10am sharp. The run consisted of a 10 kilometer competitive race, or a 5k walk run, and an entrance fee of 10 euro was paid and the money went to a t-shirt as well as a donation to the World Food Organization. Times ranged from 48 minutes to an hour for the 10K and Romstarter Katey finished with an amazing time of 53 minutes! The running course offered the participating individuals an up close view of the beautiful Roman landmarks without he hustle and bustle of daily life; runners ran around the Coliseum, Circo Massimo and the Altare della Patria .
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After the run, the members of team USA were invited to the UN Ambassador to Rome’s house for a traditional American bar-b-que, complete with hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad!

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Finding Spontaneity in Orvieto

Study Trip to Orvieto, Italy October 3rd-5th.

I had an amazing trip to Orvieto with 16 other students and SLA Steven this past weekend. I was lucky enough to get a spot on this trip last Monday because one of my friends couldn’t go; I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for, but I jumped on last minute anyways. The first day we arrived pretty early in the morning and had a huge lunch at Chef Lorenzo’s restaurant: The Zeppelin. He was the mastermind of our incredible weekend. We also got a chance to explore the town a bit, and most of the group headed right to the Duomo. Featuring 13th century frescoes and an alternatively designed, striped interior, it was definitely worth the three-euro entry fee. But be careful, they are very strict about no photos inside the Duomo and will yell at you in Italian if you even reach for your phone… I definitely learned this the hard way.

Orvieto Cathedral

Orvieto Cathedral

Then we went to Lorenzo’s vineyard and harvested the last two rows of grapes, that he saved for us. Lorenzo gave us T-shirts that had the word “Vendemmia” written across the back, meaning grape harvest in Italian. We had little shears and even with a cool fall breeze, quite a few students gave up before we finished. It’s a much more tedious task than we were expecting. Afterwards, we all climbed on the tractor once the trailer was full and rode back to the farm for a huge dinner with all of his chef interns and employees.

Vendemmia!

Vendemmia!

We must have been at the table for three hours by the time dinner was finished, fresh porchetta -pork- an Umbrian speciality, salads, and many other dishes kept coming. The food was incredible. The following day, we woke up relatively early to go to the local market. Lorenzo met us there with one of his interns, and we sampled the food we were going to buy for our lunch that WE cooked! Everything was homemade and handmade, so we spent two hours rolling pasta noodles with our hands, baking fresh freccasca bread, an excellent peach or pesche dessert and drinking wine the whole time. After lunch we were free for the afternoon so while some played calcio with local school aged kids, my roommate and I accidentally slept the afternoon away. It felt an awful like Thanksgiving back in the states; we ate, slept and then went back to the restaurant for another huge dinner. I was more than okay with it all.

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This time we didn’t spent two hours rolling the pasta and I appreciated it more than ever before. Saturday night in Orvieto was definitely the liveliest of the weekend nights and most of our group went out with some of the interns. Sunday morning we went on a nature hike around Orvieto (mostly uphill, which was not forewarned) but worth the stunning views from each peak. I loved the spontaneous nature of this trip, and how we were free to do what we pleased in between time spent with Lorenzo. Sunday morning was much more adventurous than my Saturday afternoon was. Immediately following the hike, we even met up with the Italian kids again for another game of calcio. This time, I was inclined to play and had a great time -even with a slightly sprained ankle. After our much needed exercise after two days of eating and napping, we had another incredible meal at the Zeppelin before catching our train back to Roma. What an amazing thing to say each weekend I spend away: back home to Rome.

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