Broken Italian

Getting by with little to no Italian like a boss. Huzzah for hand gestures.

Painted Reverence: The Sistine Chapel

For some reason, it felt like my heart was doing some sort of rhythmic gymnastics routine in my chest, and my palms felt clammy as I walked up the many marble stairs that would bring me into Michaelangelo’s masterpiece: the Sistine Chapel. I had never thought much about the Sistine Chapel before and I’m not particularly into art history— I realized that I didn’t even know what the Vatican looked like until I nearly ran into its door. So, I really couldn’t discern what I was in for. 


I was told to keep my eyes down as I walked through the threshold into the epitome of Michaelangelo’s career and into one of Rome’s most distinguished and prized landmarks, so my anticipation rose quickly. When the adrenaline and the overwhelming recognition of what I was about to do registered, my knees began to quiver. It was like a dam burst in my head and all of these thoughts began storming my brain: In a few seconds I will be looking at the SISTINE CHAPEL with my naked eyes. The amount of secrets this room holds is astronomic. I will be walking on the same floor that so many esteemed, holy and famous people have walked on, and I’m just realizing all of this NOW?! I was shocked with myself! I almost panicked, actually, because I realized that I hadn’t prepared myself for this experience in the slightest. But then I heard it. The “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of sheer reverence coming from all around me. My eyes were still hooded, so I relied on my other senses; the air cooled and voices became hushed. The atmosphere of the bustling staircase that I had just traveled up completely disappeared. So… I looked up. It took me a moment to register what I was looking at, since I hadn’t taken many opportunities to study the Sistine Chapel prior to entering. But once I began to look around and study the work of art that was just a few dozen feet from my eyeballs, a wave of veneration washed over me. My insignificance as I stood under this massive depiction of man vs. God became shockingly evident. Even in the dimly lit chapel I could still see the brilliance of the colors, shapes and dimensions that covered every inch of that ceiling. Every painted face had a different expression, and I could feel the anguish, jubilation, comfort, love, hatred, humility etc. in every scene that was depicted. They were all beautiful. I didn’t want to take my eyes off of it, but my neck muscles protested, so I had to settle for about 15 minutes of staring wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. 

Well, the whole atmosphere made me feel terribly romantic, so the song that I chose to play as my soundtrack as I walked through the Sistine Chapel is “Samson” by Regina Spektor. It’s a song that uses the biblical couple Samson and Delilah to relay a kind of love that is bittersweet, because of the beautiful yet tragic bond that the lovers share. It reminded me of the bond between Adam and Eve. I did my best to burn the images into my brain so that I could simply close my eyes and relive the first moment I looked up over and over again. Alas, my memory does not do it justice. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to go back and experience it all over again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6EXUQUXtgI - Samson by Regina Spektor

Ciao xo,

Alexa

Cheers from the Verrazano Vineyard in the Chianti region of Tuscany! That beautiful ruby gem of a wine that I’m tasting is the Chianti Reserva. It went wonderfully with the salami and cheese that they gave us to go with it. I have to say this day definitely made my top 3. 
Ciao for now! 
xo

Cheers from the Verrazano Vineyard in the Chianti region of Tuscany! That beautiful ruby gem of a wine that I’m tasting is the Chianti Reserva. It went wonderfully with the salami and cheese that they gave us to go with it. I have to say this day definitely made my top 3.

Ciao for now! 

xo

Tan Lines

Nowadays, the only tan lines any fashion-savvy girl is aiming for are those derived from three tiny triangular pieces of water-friendly fabric. For the majority of my trendy, young adult life, I’ve only been interested in lying out on the beach in my bikini and obtaining a nice, even tan. Well, that all went to mush in Italy. I’ve got tan lines on my feet from multiple different sandal straps due to all of the days walking around Sorrento, Positano and Capri under the fierce Mediterranean sun. I’ve got a considerably light yet evident tan line from my socks and sneakers from my hike up Mt. Vesuvius, and a gradient-like fade from pale to bronze traveling steadily down my thighs from the array of running shorts, bermuda shorts, dresses and skirts that I’ve donned during various excursions. Honestly, I don’t even want to get into my especially unique farmers tan that sort of looks like a tank-top tan, and at the same time kind of resembles a tub-top tan. I’m a wreck! After a mild panic attack as I considered these dreadful lines that have turned my body into some quirky road map of color, I started to think about what they actually meant.

Every other summer for the past nine or so years, I’ve had a boring tan-line from my boring bikini that suggested I had been doing nothing else besides sprawling out on the beach, worshiping the sun goddess. Everyone does that. But now, I have tan lines that actually tell a story, and you know what, I think that’s pretty freaking awesome. When people look at my tan lines (assuming they stop staring and attempting to suppress their laughter long enough) I’ll be able to explain how I got them, and where I’ve been. I’d much rather point to my quirky sock-tan and share the story of how I hiked to the top of an ACTIVE VOLCANO, knowing very well that I was staring square into the face of danger, than show off my extremely common bikini tan lines that everybody and their mom acquires every single summer. I propose a new outlook. Bizarre tan lines should no longer be frowned upon, but instead worn with pride! Tan lines are now the mark of an adventurer, a sign of braved frontiers and unforgettable moments. When I return home to the states, I’m going to get into my bikini, walk onto the beach, and show off my dozen different tan lines with pride, and know that when people are staring, they’re all just jealous that I went to Italy and they didn’t. 

Mystical Doorknobs

So here’s the thing. At first this may sound like it’s going to be a rambling blog post about arbitrary things that will send every reader off to sleepy-time land in two seconds, but I think it might actually be interesting! My brain, which I think I should nickname Le Sponge, has been soaking up EVERYTHING. Even those little things around us that, back home, we spare no precious thought for because we’ve become so used to their role in our every day lives that there’s just no point. Like toilets… Being thrown into a whole different culture is like baptism by fire. You have to get to know so many things so quickly in order to thrive, so you’ve got to make it a point to learn the local ins and outs and figure out what the fudge you’re doing! But when I say things are different, I mean THINGS are different too not just the people and the culture and the places etc. I’ve decided that I want to give a few snapshots of Rome from my perspective, and I’ll have you know that I can be a little bit of a space cadet sometimes, so some of the things I’m going to write about may not necessarily have been your first choice! Here’s a bit of Rome from my eyes.


All in all, I think Rome is a cleaner, more spacious, vintagey (I made that word up), version of New York… but it’s also very different. First off, I’m walking around Rome and I’m seeing all these signs that just read BAR and I’m thinking to myself, Oh my gosh these people need THESE MANY BARS three feet from each other?! Jesus, do they ever sleep?! And then I realize that a BAR here… is a coffee bar… I had an American moment… Once I got past that mental road-block, I started soaking in more of the wonderfully odd things that Rome has to offer. Some things, I tell you, are just plain weird, and I start to slip into this weird alternate universe where I start to question what’s actually “normal.” What if we’re the weird ones?

Now for the list! And a few snarky comments (of course.) Enjoy!

Portions: No shocker here. Okay, picture an elephant. Now picture a zebra. Good? The elephant symbolizes the size of the American portions and the zebra symbolizes the size of the Italian portions. I am no longer doubled over with severe stomach pains because I ate too much. That’s just not a problem here.

Gelato: When it comes to the question: ice cream of gelato? I will never go back to ice cream again because gelato is just so much better for you. It’s got 4-8% butterfat vs. the 14% butterfat of ice cream, and they’re also made differently, so the gelato is so much thicker than regular ice cream. Hm. Let’s see. Better for you, thicker and more flavorful. Gelato wins.

Water: The water here is different! I don’t know if it’s softer, or what, but it’s so crisp and cold even if you get it from one of the stone fountains around town. In America we would instinctually shy away from a steady stream of water spewing out of a slab of stone and call it unsanitary and then turn gleefully back to our Evian bottles and Poland Spring. Nope. The water here is clean, cold and always available on the streets. Plus, it makes my hair feel luxuriously silky in the shower!

Doorknobs: Alright, this one’s my favorite. This is the last thing that I would have expected to be different! I didn’t think there was anything wrong with our doorknobs at home, so why the different design? I slipped into that alternate universe where normalcy is questioned concerning this one. Picture a regular, good-old American doorknob. Now, add a slightly curved, rectangular button on top of said doorknob. My first instinct was to turn the doorknob, and I admit I panicked slightly when the doorknob to the public bathroom I was in wouldn’t turn. Instead of turning the knob to unlatch the hinge, you push that little rectangular button on top of the doorknob to open it up. I know, I know, your mind is now blown.

I’ve considered myself stuck in a bubble my whole life. I’m from a little town in New Jersey and I’ve never really gotten the chance to travel around my own country much let alone get out of it! So yes, simple, arbitrary things such as doorknobs excite me just a little! For all of you first time travelers out there, I bring tales of mystical doorknobs from foreign lands with hopes that you will realize that the bubble is not a place you want to be your whole life. Go. Emerge. Bloom. Explore! There are so many exciting things out there, and I tell you, the mystical doorknobs are just arbitrary apparatus next to all the other new and exciting sights you will undoubtably see. 

Ciao xo,

Alexa 

Bellissima

I keep thinking that I’m going to nod off somewhere, stutter awake, and then find out that it was all just a dream and I’m really NOT in Rome having the most amazing time of my barely-past-adolescence life. So much has been happening, but it would get very redundant if I were to write it all down because it would slip into a pattern of I went to class.. I got a pizza.. I got a cappuccino.. I got a gelato (yes my life revolves around food) etc. etc.. SO. With the predetermined notion that I am enjoying massive amounts of pizza and gelato (nocciola is my favorite so far which is hazelnut. To DIE for) and wine and all of it is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, I’m gonna share a story that happened at the Trevi Fountain that amped up my warm-and-fuzzy-o-meter to about 110%.

The whole group took the Metro and walked over to the Trevi Fountain through the winding cobblestone streets filled with one staggeringly beautiful building after the other. I swear, the only syllables out of my mouth lately are elongated vowels and gasps. 

Right. Tangent. Bringing it back, we went into one of the many old churches in Rome, and this one happened to be right next to the Trevi Fountain. It was small and intimate with darker colors and stonework so it radiated a very soothing aura that suddenly made me feel very pious. I was wearing a tank top (you cannot show your shoulders in many of the smaller churches in Rome) so the priest (priest? minister?… papal leader?) gave me a shawl to cover my shoulders as I walked around. As I was returning my shawl to the priest and getting ready to walk out he motioned me toward him and said, “English or Italian,” in a very heavy accent. I said English, and this little old man grinned at me, took my hand and said in broken English (that very nicely matched my broken Italian), “when you smile… bellissima,” and my heart just about melted right out of my chest. It gets better. As I’m waving and saying some sort of emotional jumble of grazi and ciao trying not to pool into a blubbering heap in the middle of God’s foyer, he motions for me to wait again. He reached under the table and pulled out a basket of Italian candies, and motioned for me to take one, and indicated in more broken English that I should bring one for my friend who was just with me. It was a very cute moment that I’m glad I got to experience.

Well hey.. I wished for love at the Trevi Fountain like you’re supposed to but I didn’t think it would happen that freakin’ quickly! These Italians, man. VERY SHARP. 

The whole group at the Trevi Fountain! It was like nothing I have ever seen before. I’m really starting to feel the culture and LOVING it!

The whole group at the Trevi Fountain! It was like nothing I have ever seen before. I’m really starting to feel the culture and LOVING it!

Our fearless leader.. Gieuseppe Romani. 

Our fearless leader.. Gieuseppe Romani. 

Roma. My long lost love.

After a grueling eight hour flight… another two in the airport, and half an hour of saying my Hail Mary’s as our bus driver careened through the streets of Rome to get us to St. John’s University (an old city block building in the Pratti section of Rome), we finally made it to this astonishing city, and I’m already completely enamored! There’s so much to do and see and take in, it’s almost overwhelming but then I keep reliving the realization that I am actually 4,000 miles away in Italy for only four short weeks, and that’s enough to keep me focused on sitting back and soaking in Italy to full my capacity: the culture, the people, the food… oh, the food… and the breathtaking landscapes. So far, this is what we’ve got. We’ve been here a total of 30 hours.. 28 where we were actually coherent.. and we’ve already had: the world famous pizza that everyone raves about (it lives up to the hype), gelato (to die for) and cappuccino. We’ve traveled to Tivoli (a medieval city in the mountains about 30 minutes outside of Rome) where we lost Meagan and Erin, had a wonderful dinner at La Grottino Ristorante with a wonderful bottle of proseco, spoke broken Italian with Domenico our quirky yet astronomically accommodating host at Hotel Le Rose, and navigated the Metro system like pros on our way to and from Tivoli. Huzzah! I feel cultured already. 

So the story about how we lost Erin and Meagan for a little was horrifying at the moment, but hilarious in hindsight and is turning into a running inside joke. Molly, Alexis, Ashley, Erin, Meagan and I went to Tivoli a few hours after we got off the plane and got settled into our rooms and whatnot. We uneventfully made it through the Metro station (thankfully) and onto our bus and Molly plastered herself to the window so she could spot our hotel and then holler so we could all get off at the next stop. If I remember correctly through the convoluted jumble of events that were happening all at once, this is how it went down: Molly spots Hotel, Molly yells about finding hotel, Erin and Meagan are sleeping 6 rows back, Molly yells to Erin and Meagan, Erin and Meagan exit through back of the bus, Alexis is confused by the ticket validating machine, impatient bus driver closes doors, Alexis curses at bus driver, Erin and Meagan stare petrified at the bus as it pulls Molly, Alexis, Ashley and I away into the Tivoli sunset. Yep. That happened. Luckily the two stops were only about a mile awart so both groups practically sprinted towards each other and needless to say the reunion was lovely, and full of relieved sighs and laughs. Note to self. DO NOT GET SEPARATED FROM THE GROUP IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. (You’re welcome, Mom.)

The wine. Yes, it deserves its own section. In our little restaurant La Grottino, we asked for the house white wine, and he brought us out proseco, which I can only describe as Riesling with a slight carbonation. For those of you that don’t know Riesling, it’s a fruity, crisp, sweet white wine, and it happens to be my favorite. But this proseco completely surpassed all of my wildest dreams and was all that I was looking for in a glass of white wine and more… It was smooth, refreshing, and came without the hangover thank Jesus. So our night was full of good conversation, side splitting laughter, good food, good wine, and great company. Yes, Tivoli is definitely a memory I’ll look back on with that warm and fuzzy kind of feeling. Actually, I’ve had a perpetually warm and fuzzy kind of feeling since I’ve been here. So much so that upon opening my window this morning and feeling the warm, inviting Italian breeze on my face, I almost broke out into a rousing rendition of “Oh Happy Day,” accompanied by a few pirouettes and a scissor kick, but then realized that my roommates probably would not appreciate waking up to my antics and contained myself. We’ll ignore the fact that I cannot physically do a scissor kick.

If our trip to Tivoli was any indication of how the rest of this trip is going to pan out, then I must say I am inwardly squealing like a little girl who was just introduced to Justin Bieber; the word ‘excited’ just doesn’t quite do it. Roma, I cannot wait to discover all of your secrets and pour all of my love into your charming cobblestone streets. I look forward to writing more dorky blog posts about every new adventure.

With love, from Roma,

Alexa