Thursday, January 19, 2012

When I shamelessly take a gazillion pictures like a good tourist should...

Buona sera! I'm currently killing some time waiting for pictures to upload, so I thought I would share with you more of my foreign travels! I can literally see you bursting with excitement.

The past few days have been a blur of sightseeing and school. I'll say one thing, the JFRC definitely knows how to plan an orientation. So far, they've taken us out to dinner in the Balduina, to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Villa D'Este, and the town of Tivoli. And we've got another trip planned for this weekend. Expect updates soon!

But now to talk about my current trips! On Saturday, we went on to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. While I missed to lecture about the Colosseum and the Forum (I was still trying to recover from my 4:30am lack of direction experience) I had the next best thing: 7 classics majors! My friends from Holy Cross happily acted as my tour guides, which helped because there were almost no signs explaining the different ruins. The Roman Forum and surrounding ruins were spectacular! The history geek inside me was squealing. Not only were the ruins incredible, but the view was gorgeous. I swear I'm failing at descriptions, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Looking down on the Forum
Not sure what this is. Pretty cool though!
Me and Alexis
I found Jersey Shore!
After the Roman Forum, we walked over to the Colosseum. I still am baffled at how the ancient Romans managed to build something of this magnitude and with this kind of intricacy with the technology they had. It's mind-boggling. The running theory amongst our group is that the aliens helped them. I'm totally kidding, but still! It's amazing!
Yup. Definitely aliens.
Really makes you want to watch "Gladiator", doesn't it?

After the Colosseum, I opted to head back to campus. I was still desperately sleep-deprived and was eager for a quiet night of skyping the family and curling a good book. I guess even in a foreign country you need to take some time for yourself.

I'm glad I took that time to rest, because I had another packed and crazy Italian day on Saturday! Early Saturday morning, we started off for Tivoli, a small town outside of Rome. I found this ironic, because there is a movie theater near my school named the Tivoli. So here's what I think of when I hear Tivoli: 

Here's what I saw at the Tivoli in Italy:

Big difference, huh? We began our day with a tour at the Villa D'Este. The house belonged to a cardinal during the Renaissance period with ambitions of becoming pope. Don't ask me why a guy wanting to be head of the Catholic Church wants his walls painted with frescos of Greek gods and goddesses. I haven't got a clue. I was really impressed by the beautiful art covering the walls. Just look:

As we walked outside, our tour guide explained to use that the Villa D'Este is famous, not for the art inside, but for the gardens and fountains. After walking around outside for a few seconds, I understood why. It was utterly spectacular! The most beautiful place I'd ever seen (so far) and all built during the Renaissance. Check it out.

The best part though? All of these fountains are functioning solely through natural water pressure.That's right. No pumps, engines, or any kind of technology. Just water pressure!

All-natural water pressure, baby!

One fountain was a musical fountain. It contained an organ inside, which was played by the flowing water. How do you like them apples? Can't upload a video, but here's a picture

Also, on a fun and completely unrelated fact, at the Villa D'Este, we found a cat running around. We named him Herbert. However, Herbert, like many celebrities, preferred to hide his face from the camera, so this was the best I could do:
Come on Herbert. Just look at the camera!

After touring the Villa, we were taken to dinner at a place called "Antiche Terme Di Diana". What a very nondescript exterior hide, though, was an underground restaurant built in ancient roman ruins! Now, you'd think that this kind of thing would be a well planned ploy by the Italian government to use history to make a profit, right? Or that the restaurant owner carefully scouted out the location for a gimmick to draw people into their restaurant.

Turns out, both options are wrong. The owner of this restaurant found room after room of Roman accident! And I must say, after all those years, they did a pretty nice job keeping it looking good

The food wasn't bad either. Good white wine, several courses, including lamb, lasagna, sausage, and tiramisu for dessert! Food coma, here I come!

 Olive spread: Looks good, olives
 Lamb=best meat ever!
 Yummy tiramisu!

After dinner, we went out and explored the town. We found a castle and tried to get inside

From the look of it, I think someone might actually live there! Could you imagine that?!? Even though we couldn't get in, it was still pretty nice to look at. After that, we wondered some of the small streets of Tivoli. If I had to guess where Epcot got their design ideas for the Italy section of their park, I'd guess here.

After wandering for a bit, I bought my first coffee in an Italian bar (that's their name for cafes). Twas great!

Sunday was a relaxing day. Mass on campus is really nice. There's something very moving about a small community coming together for an intimate Mass without a need for a massive ceremony. It was perfect. After Mass, they played the Packer game on the projector in the lounge. A fun experience, even though it resulted in a painful and disappointing end to an otherwise remarkable season. Don't worry, Packers, I still love you!

Classes started Monday. So far, they are pretty good. One culture class I have to take is a bit dull (because of the teacher, not the subject). Other than that, classes are good. I'm actually enjoying my Italian class and my History of Organized Crime is already fascinating. I think I need to drop something though, since I've signed myself up for 18 credits (yikes!).

Since Wednesday my only class ended at 11:00am today, leading a few of us to go on an adventure to downtown Rome. But that, my friends, is a story for another time. So ttfn! Ta Ta for now!

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