Saturday, 28 June 2008

In Retrospect

Aside from the excitement of returning home, I took a minute to reflect on my seven weeks in Rome. Looking back it is hard to believe how much I have learned and grown from my experiences. Through the blogging assignments, I have in particular learned a lot from my themes, Roman churches and gelato and also my place, Trastevere. From just my research and my writing on these three topics you can gain a good understanding of what I got and took out of my time in Rome.

Gelato, quite obviously, was a big part of my diet and enjoyment in Italy. Simply by seeking out different gelateria’s it has taught me not only how great the Italian ice cream is, but also a lot about the city. I had to travel around to all different parts of the city to complete my gelato tour. Also, surprisingly, I learned that gelato is actually better for you than American ice cream, which of course gave me a good excuse to eat more!

Roman churches not only strengthened my Catholic faith but also taught me a lot about the Italian architecture, artwork and the aesthetics. I enjoyed comparing and contrasting the differences between the churches I visited. From smaller local churches in Santa Maria in Trastevere to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, each church has something unique that I took away from them. Although I didn’t get to see the four hundred plus churches in Rome, I feel as if I visited a good amount and I can’t wait until I am return to Rome to see more.

Trastevere, my place, was my home for seven weeks. I will always remember when the cab drove us up to our front door. We said to each other this couldn’t be right. In a back alley with no idea where we were was a bit horrifying. However, only days later we called it home. We grew to love it and really got to know it. There was so much to see, restaurants and shops lined every alleyway and down the main street Viale Di Trastevere. Trastevere, “across the Tiber” was its own little world, separated from the center city of Rome by the Tiber River. I enjoyed how it was filled with a lot of locals and was away from a lot of tourist traps. Overall, looking back on my two themes and my place, it really shows how much I was able to accomplish in such a short period of time. I hope you have enjoyed learning about my experience and adventures in Rome!

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Grand Finale of the Gelato Tour

The last stop on the gelato tour was Giolliti’s, making a complete circle back to the start of my gelato tour. “One extra-large gelato please,” I said to the cashier as I handed her ten euros, yes that’s right ten euros worth of gelato. I handed my receipt to the man behind the counter, which evoked a shocked facial expression. It is probably not often that he serves customers a 10 euro gelato. He pulled out a cone that was at least twelve inches long and started piling on the gelato, making the cone another six inches taller with a huge dollop of whipped cream on top. I think every person in Giolitti’s stopped to observe the masterpiece. The ninety degree weather was not good circumstances because the gelato was melting so fast. It made it that much more of a challenge. We decided to walk to the Pantheon and sit there while we ate our gelato. I now know how celebtrities feel because as I walked down Via Pantheon we got comments, stares, and even cheering from the people on the street. However, the stares and cheering were not for the same reason celebrities get them . Instead, we were just great advertisements for Giolitti’s. Believe it or not I completed the challenge. It was a great end to my Italian gelato tour.

Caffé della Arance

My last morning in Rome was spent in an outdoor sitting area of a local ristorante in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. A few of my roommates and I had seen this particular establishment a few weeks earlier while we were passing through on our way to dinner. The tall, flute glasses which held a large amount of freshly squeezed orange juice were enough to catch anyone’s eye. We made a vow to enjoy this delicious juice before we left Roma. At about 11 AM we made our way to two tables side by side and ordered five drinks. They took about eight minutes to prepare, but the wait was well worth it. The flutes were delivered and contained a fresh slice of orange garnishing the rim of the glass. The first sip was so refreshing, and I loved how the drinks actually came with a generous serving of ice. On such a hot day, this was exactly what the five of us needed and even though the price was a bit steep (€7), we were all happy when we stood up to leave. I was so glad that we finally got the chance to visit Caffé della Arance and recommend it to anyone looking for a special glass of morning juice!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Tiber River Gelato

A beautiful night in Rome, my friends and I decided we would go down to the Tiber River. For the past two weeks on our way to school we have watched the gradual set up of the stands and tents lining the river. Not exactly sure what they were setting up for we hoped they would be finished in time for us to experience whatever it happened to be.

We were pleasantly surprised when we got down to the river. Roman teenagers and young adults were sitting along the river socializing. There were food stands, bars, and accessories shops lining the river on one side. On the other side, there were large seating areas overlooking the river. Quickly I felt submersed into the Roman culture. We sat down and enjoyed not only each others company but the culture around us. The only thing left to do was get my favorite Italian specialty, gelato! Luckily there was a gelato stand a few feet away from where we were sitting. I convinced some of my friends to come with me. Of course I got the fruit di bosco, but this time I added a special touch. I got caramel syrup on top. It was the first time I saw it offered in a gelateria. Gelato in hand, sitting on the Tiber with friends is my idea of a perfect night in Italy.

Villa Doira Pamphilj

On an extremely hot Monday morning, I set out to meet my group for our guided walk lead by Allison. At 9:00 a.m. the heat from the Roman sun was so oppressive that \we decided to catch a bus to Villa Doira Pamphilj. It was the first time that I was asked for my validated bus ticket. Thankfully, Jessica our group leader had told us that we needed to purchase tickets before we got on the bus, or I might have been out fifty euros for a one euro bus ride. The bus dropped us off just steps from Villa Doria Pamphilj. Villa Doria Pamphilj is one of Rome’s largest public parks. At first sight I was not overly impressed with the garden. However, once we walked a little ways down the dirt path lined with trees, my impression completely changed. Astonished by the extravagant building that lay in front of me, we quickly walked as closer to get a better view. The villa was the summer residence for Prince Camillo Pamphilj. The villa, fountains and summerhouses were paid for by Pope Innocent X. The beautiful gardens seemed to never end, with people walking, running, playing or just sitting on a bench taking in the beautiful scenery. It reminded me of Central Park in New York City. None the less, it was a nice break from the craziness of the city. Our tour ended at my favorite spot, Giolitti’s. Surprisingly and sadly, it was some of my group members first Giolitti’s experience! It was a great end to a lovely day.

At last, a visit to the Vatican Museum!

I am no longer embarrassed or saddened because I can officially say: I have been to the Vatican Museum. It is an overwhelming but spectacular museum. The Laocoon, a first century AD marble statue, depicts the Trojan priest Laocoon and his son struggling with two serpents. The Laocoon was at the top of our list of statues to see. Not sure where it was located we decided we would keep our eyes out for it as we wondered through the long corridors of the museum. However, as we were walking through the Gallery of Tapestries, Carley stopped us in a panic “we missed the Laocoon!” All in accordance we turned around and began to backtrack. We still were not sure where it was located, so we studied the map to get our bearings. Thinking we had figured out where the Laocoon was located, we continued on our way. According to the map it is in the Greek and Roman courtyard. Down the stairs through a corridor that we had already been in we rounded the corner and halted at the door leading out to the courtyard. The rain was pounding down on the pebbled walkway. We grabbed our umbrellas and proceeded down the walkway in search of the Laocoon. To our dismay, the Laocoon was nowhere to be found. Right in front of us was an English speaking tour guide. We said to her, “Excuse me, will you please tell us where the Laocoon is located?” She replied in a very friendly manner and gave us directions back into the building. We thanked her and went on our way. Ironically the directions took us back to the courtyard we had already visited. Our adventure to find the Laocoon exemplifies the Vatican Museum’s overwhelming amount of art. We took a few pictures and observed the Laocoon, and then we were back to where we left off. The rest of our self-guided tour went smoothly and was totally worth the five week wait.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Rome's Secret Garden

Orto Botanico di Roma is a beautiful botanical garden located in the slopes of the Janiculum and overlooks . The garden is operated by the Sapienza University of Rome. It was first established in 1883 and is the successor of the Papal Botanical Garden. I knew nothing about the Botanical Garden’s until Kevin reported about it to our class. Interested by the description he gave us I decided to go see it for myself. The garden is home to more than 3,000 species of which over 300 are medicinal. On a beautiful day it is great way to escape the noisy, crowded, hustle and bustle of Rome. You can wander along the guided paths and enjoy the wide array of plants, as well as ponds and water fountains that add to the gardens serenity. Here you will also find great view points of Rome. It is a great place to sit on a bench and relax in peace and quiet all while looking out at the great city of Rome.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Porta Portese Flea Market

The Porta Portese flea market in Trastevere is the biggest flea market in Rome and all of Italy. Every Sunday morning, as early as 5 a.m., people begin parading down the streets in search of bargains. Over two thousand stalls line the road as stallholders aggressively try to get your business. Here the savvy shopper can pick up a wide variety of new and used items. However, the experience can be quite overwhelming for visitors. For instance, when I first arrived at the market a feeling of claustrophobia came over me as the swarms of people plowed over me like I was invisible. The combination of the hoards of people and the feeling of uncertainty left me very overwhelmed initially. However, once I figured out how the market worked and I grew accustomed to the crowds, I was in the swing of things. It is a great spot for gifts that are reasonably priced, but make sure you never settle for the initial price. You need to use what bargaining skills you have. I decided to make it more interesting by making a game out of it. I went around to different stalls selling similar products to see how low I could get the stallholders to go. Overall, it is definitely a tiring but rewarding Italian experience.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Gelateria Tour Information

The first stop on the gelateria tour is Gelateria della Palma. Gelateria della Palma is just mere steps from the Pantheon, which could be seen as a plus for convenience or a minus for steeper prices. However, della Palma offers a wide variety with over a 100 different flavors of gelato; and if that isn’t good enough for you, try their specialty semifreddi (half frozen mousse). Giolliti’s, the next stop, is probably the most famous gelateria in Rome. It was voted number one on the top 10 list for gelateria’s in Rome. The ordering process can be quite confusing and intimidating to new customers, just make sure to pay at the cash register before you order. Then walk over to the large crowd of people around the gelato case and work your way up to the counter because there are no lines. Although it may be intimidating, it is all part of the experience. The last stop on the gelateria tour is San Crispino. San Crispino is on the top 10 list of gelateria’s in Rome and it is known for their, Il Gelato di S. Crispino, which is honey flavored gelato. If this sounds like your kind of gelato, make sure to save room for the last stop!

Gelateria Tour Directions

Standing in Piazza della Rotondo with your back to the Pantheon, walk to the right towards the northeast corner of the piazza until you reach Via Pantheon. Proceed down the narrow road a short distance until you run into Piazza Maddalena where you will see the beautiful Santa Maria Maddalena. Continue to walk through the Piazza to the other side and get on Via Maddalena. After one short block you will see, on the left hand side, Gelateria della Palma are first stop. It is located on the corner of Via Maddalena and Via delle Copelle. After enjoying some tasty gelato or their famous semifreddi (half frozen mousse), get ready for our next stop! Exit Gelateria della Palma and make a left onto Via Maddalena walk two blocks and then turn right on Via Degli Uffiei del Vicario. As soon as you turn you will see giant bright green letters reading Giolliti’s, voted the number one gelateria in Rome. Stop in a get a taste for yourself. The last stop on our tour is just steps away from the famous Trevi Fountain. From Giolliti’s turn right and head towards Palazzo Chigi go straight through and on the other side is Piazza Colonna, go straight through until you will run into Via del Corso, a main street. At Via del Corso make a left and then a quick right onto Via del Tritone. A couple blocks down you will pass Piazza Poli on your right. Continue on for a couple more blocks until you reach Via di Panneteria Scalone and make a right. Follow this road down about 100 meters until you reach the last stop on the tour, San Crispino.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Renovations of Museo della Pasta

Unfortunately, Museo della Pasta is currently closed for restorations. The date and place of the reopening will be revealed within the next couple of months. Check out the status and get more information by visiting their website at

Museo della Pasta

Museo della Pasta is not your ordinary museum, it is literally one of a kind. It was the first museum to ever be dedicated to one specific food product. At the museum you will learn not only the history of pasta but also how it is produced, the nutritional facts, and where pasta is found in ancient and modern art. I would like to learn about pasta since it is a main component of my daily diet, and it is food that I thoroughly enjoy. What better place to learn about pasta than in its birth place, Italy. However, the highlight of the tour is, you not only learn the history but you get to taste it too! So if you are a pasta lover or want to become a connoisseur visit Museo della Pasta.

The Vatican Museums

Embarrassed, saddened, and true, I have been in Rome for over five weeks now and have yet to visit the Vatican Museums. The Vatican Museums were on the top of my list for sites to see while studying in Rome; however, I just haven’t been able to find time to visit the spectacular place. Although as a class we went to St. Peters, we did not have enough time to see the museums as well.

The museums are full of history and date back to the year 1198, when the papal palace was created by Innocent III. A large part of the museum houses Greek and Roman artistic treasures. It is from sculptures like Apoxyomenos, Apollo del Belvedere, and Laocoon, which are considered a few of the greatest achievements of Western art that Michelangelo and other famous Renaissance artists were deeply influenced. The path that leads you to the garden also lead you to the Sistine Chapel, a church I have longed to see for years. Having learned about the beautiful frescoed art work of the Sistine Chapel and the great Renaissance artists who were responsible for the magnificent art, made me eager to see the art and architecture for myself. Hopefully I will have time this week to make a trip to the Vatican Museums, and if so I will be sure to report on my experience!

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Today I visited Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome dating back to 340s AD. The church was founded at a time when Christians were a minority sect. It is located in the heart of Piazza Santa Maria. The façade of the church was restored by Carlo Fontana who also restored the octagonal fountain in the center of the Piazza. The church can be spotted by its beautiful bell tower and its religious mosaics. The mosaics found above the portico are Mary feeding Jesus and women holding lamps used to symbolize virginity. Virginity is a common theme throughout the art work in Santa Maria in Trastevere because the basilica was devoted to the Virgin Mary.

The interior was much more extravagant than I had expected. Enormous marble columns line the nave of the church, which according to the Eyewitness Travel Rome were taken from the ruins of ancient Roman buildings. At the end of the nave was one of the most beautiful altars I have ever seen, covered in extravagant gold and mosaics. Beyond the altar is an archway that opens up to a half dome decorated in a beautiful 12th century mosaic of the Coronation of the Virgin. I found on Wikipedia that it was a popular form of Christian art that was often used during the 13th century. The mosaic portrays Christ placing the crown on Mary’s head accompanied by saints. Needless to say, Santa Maria in Trastevere is definitely worth a visit!

A trip to Boys' Town of Rome

Boys’ Town of Rome was more than anything I could have prepared myself for. It was a very special experience, an unforgettable one at that. As all 50 of us gallivanted up the drive way, we passed a few citizens who were working together on yard work. We received a warm welcome and then we were off to learn more about the orphanage that Monsignor Carroll-Abbing successfully started over 50 years ago. His mission to create a new chance at life for young boys at risk was accomplished by his courage and the help of many people. Monsignor Carroll-Abbing felt it very important to make the community as real life as possible for the boys. So a democracy was implemented through a hierarchical structure. The “city” of Boys’ Town is run by the mayor, who is elected by the citizens. We were fortunate enough to meet the present mayor, a young boy from Morocco. He was very friendly and accepting of us and happy to answer any questions we had. After just a short visit, I really felt the brotherhood between the boys who seemed to look after one another as if they were one big family. Leaving with a smile upon my face and a sense of satisfaction, I strongly suggest visiting Boys’ Town if you have the chance.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Pizzeria Da Vittoria

Pizzeria Da Vittorio, just mere steps from Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, is rated number 5 on the top 10 pizzerias in Rome. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and we were starved so the girls and I decided we would give it a try. Outside seating was definitely a plus because we could enjoy the nice weather and the delicious food all in one. I started my meal with a croquette, which is fried potato and mozzarella, in the shape of American mozzarella sticks. They were scrumptious, fried on the outside with creamy cheesy mashed potatoes on the inside. However, like a typical American I had to open my big mouth and ask for ketchup. Of course, this evoked laughter not only from our waitress, but also form another waiter she felt the need to tell. I guess I was the joke of the restaurant today. Anyway, the pizza was very fresh and of generous proportion, but what really completed my experience of the pizzeria were the complimentary cookies that came with our check. It was a simple but thoughtful gesture at the end of a tasty meal. Pizzeria Da Vittorio is definitely a stop I suggest if you are ever in the area.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Gelateria della Palma

Gelaterai Della Palma, a block from the Pantheon offers a vast array of gelato flavors, by far the most I have seen in one gelateria. You can see for yourself from the pictures, which only encompasses about half of what they have to offer. The overwhelming selection not only offers a rich creamy gelato but also semifreddi or half frozen mousse, which is available in at least ten different flavors. The only down fall to the mousse is you have to get it in a cup because it doesn’t have the same consistency as gelato and would melt to fast in a cone. I decided on the Mars semifreddi, which was very light and airy with chunks of candy mixed in, but don’t be surprised when it tastes nothing like gelato.

Oh and of course I tried the gelato as well. An even tougher decision than usual with about a hundred flavors calling out to me each one looking mouth watering and delicious. I tried to take a different route than my usual fruit gelato, and went straight for the rich chocolate flavors. My decision landed on Riso e Nutella which was perfect. The smooth creamy vanilla gelato with swirls of hazelnut Nutella mixed with the added bonus of the crispity chrunchity rice puffs. If you can’t tell already I highly suggest this gelateria, it is definitely high on my gelato tour list.

Boys' Town's Church

On our tour of Boys’ Town in Rome we visited their church, which was donated to the organization by the Butchers Union of American over fifty years ago. The church was dedicated to Saint Jude, who is the patron saint of lost causes and can perform miracles for the hopeless, in the hope that he would help the orphans who come to Boys’ Town of Rome in hopes for a “chance at life”.

The aesthetics and structure of the church are much different than what we are used to seeing in Rome. It is a small, unadorned, circular modern building with beautiful tall narrow stain glass windows. The crucifix with missing arms placed in the back of the church is a symbol of Boys’ Town showing the people need to be the arms and hands in helping. We were also told a lot of “ex-citizens” of the orphanage come back to be married or to baptize their children in the church, which shows the strong ties that the boys have to the organization. The stories and generosity of the church make it that much more beautiful and welcoming.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Boys' Town of Rome

From what I gather, Boys’ Town of Rome was founded in 1955 by Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing to aid refugees throughout Italy. It is located south-west of Rome and is run by religious orders and civic organizations. The main concern of the organization is to create a healthy safe haven for underprivileged or at “risk” boys. Here the young boys have the opportunity to live and work in a self-governing community and receive not only an academic education but also the confidence and encouragement to be all that they can be. I look forward to our visit and hope to learn more about the functions and structure of this non-profit organization.

Teatro of Ostia Antica

Ostio Antica, the ancient harbor city of Rome, is found at the mouth of the Tiber River and was once Rome’s main commercial port and military base. As a class we ventured to Ostio Antica to take a close look, for ourselves, at the ancient ruins. While exploring the extensive land I came across the obtrusive ancient Roman Teatro, the main amphitheatre of the ancient city. The enormous structure with a capacity of about 4,000 spectators was originally built at the end of the 1st century B.C. To my surprise the theatre is still being used today. The massive structure made of brick is supported by numerous arches and pilasters, which opens up to a vast area inside of concrete rows for seating overlooking the large stage with trees and the bright blue sky in the background. I sat in the teatro under the bright sun and watched young girls practice ballet, a slightly different type of entertainment than one would have found in the first century B.C.

Monday, 9 June 2008

An evening in Trastevere

Not knowing what to expect I ventured out of Santa Maria in Cappella, down the long staircase, into the dark dungeon and out through the secret back entrance. Out we went to find out what happens on a Monday night around 9:30 pm in our own town. We wondered down the cobblestone alleyways once again; however, this time the side streets were lit by illuminating street lights. Young people, sauntered arm in arm without a care in the world. The numerous ristorantes that lined the narrow alleys on either side were still happily serving their customers. As we meandered into the square the crowd of young Italians became greater. The base of the center fountain was jam-packed with kids socializing. Although it seemed late, for my standards, for kids to be out gallivanting in the town, here it seemed to be the norm. We continued on our journey stopping every so often to get a quick glimpse of Italy vs. Amsterdam score. Unfortunately, it did not look good for the Italians, although loyal fans continued to sit intently watching the eurocup soccer game. The night ended, of course, with a gelato. All in all, I would say it was a successful and delicious night in Trastevere.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

History of Gelato

The history of this decadent dessert today called gelato, dates back 3,000 years ago. I assumed gelato originated in Italy; however, to the contrary, Emperors of China were the first to indulge in what started the evolution of our gelato today. The Emperors made what we call, sorbetto which was wine and honey flavored snow. It is said that the Chinese taught Arab traders their recipe, who than shared the it with the Venetians and Romans.

It took a few centuries before what today we call gelato was created. Gelato was originated in Northern Italy by the Dolomites and consisted of milk, cream, eggs, sugar and other natural flavorings. When gelato was first created in Italy, it was considered a rich man’s dessert because only royalty could afford it in the beginning. Gelato was a major source of income for the Dolomites. Fortunately, as time went on the recipe spread across Italy and now all of Italy, rich and poor, get to indulge in this delectable dessert!

Il Gelato San Crispino

Il Gelato San Crispino voted one of the top ten Gelateria’s in Rome, put nicely, was a major disappointment. Upon entering I noticed it had a different atmosphere about it. It was not bright with gelato overflowing in the glass case like the other gelateria’s I have been to. Rather it was unassuming and had no gelato in sight. However, I do have to say, the store was very clean as they pride themselves for their hygiene.

Hillary, one of my teaching assistants, told me they were known for their Il Gelato di S. Crispino which is honey flavored gelato, so I thought I would give it a try. Thankfully, I sampled it first and realized that it was not for me. I ended up going with the hazelnut and crema gelato hoping it would be a safe bet. To my dismay, the gelato was in fact highly overrated. Both flavors lacked any distinctive taste, in fact, I could barely tell the difference between the two. If that wasn’t enough it was extremely overpriced and due to their high concern for hygiene, they do not serve cones! San Crispino is definitely not on the top of my gelateria list.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A trip to the Catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastiano

Catacombes: Hilary Hannan, Juliana Haviland, Nicole DiMeglio, Brooke Hersh, Mia Briceno.

Starting from Stazione Centrale Roma Termini Station, take the Archeobus. It is a bright green, open air bus, with a “hop on, hop off” system. It picks you up at the station, on the half hour, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, and travels along the Appian Way, with 11 stops. The information we found and details about each stop can be found at Archeobus Route.

Tickets cost 13 Euro for adults and kids under 5 years old are free. They can be purchased online, on board, or at the Termini Station. We suggest that you purchase the tickets online, as there seems to be online discounts available.

Stop number 8 is Catacombe di San Callisto. We suggest you get off the bus and explore this catacomb. The hours are Thursday through Tuesday, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. It opens again at 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. It is closed on Wednesdays and in February. It takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to complete the tour. Tickets cost 6 Euro for adults, 3 Euro for children under 15 years old and students and free admission for children under 6 years old. The information we found and more can be found at Home Page of San Callisto. After you finish you can either continue walking down Appian Way to our next suggested stop, the Catacombe di San Sebastiano, or hop back on the Archeobus. It will be the next stop on the bus tour.

Stop number 9 will drop you at Catacombe di San Sebastiano. The hours of operation and ticket costs are the same as mentioned above.

The Catacombs of San Callisto span from four different levels which include the crypt of the popes and the crypt of Santa Cecilia. The rooms which are of great importance in the Catacomb contain stucco and frescoes and can be reached by traveling through small hallways of volcanic remains. Also along the Appian Way is the Catacomb of San Sebastiano which can be identified with dull frescoes and graffiti. Although the catacombs seem to be a major tourist site, there are also basilicas located above the Christian tombs.

Direction from Rome's Termini to the Great Synagogue of Rome

Starting at Stazione Centrale Roma Termini facing Piazzi dei Cinquecento, make a left onto Via Cavour. After about four or five blocks you will reach Cavour’s metro station. A few more blocks down the road curves slightly to the right, make sure to stay on Via Cavour. Once you run into Via dei Fori Imperiali make a right. Follow this road until you reach the church of Colonna Traiana on the right. At the church make a left onto Via S. Marco. After about a block turn left onto Via D. Teatro di Marcello. Keep an eye out for San Nicola in Carcere on your right, slightly passed this church make a right onto Via della Consolazoine. Then a quick left onto Longotevere dei Cenci which is along the Tiber River, up a little bit on the right sits the Great Synagogue of Rome.

The Great Synagogue of Rome or Tempio Maggiore di Roma is the largest synagogue in Rome. It was built by Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni in 1904. The structure, in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, is a symbol and celebration of the Jewish Liberation. The unique square aluminum dome makes the building stand out from many vantage points throughout the city.

Directions to Santa Maria Concezione from Rome's Termini

Begin at Stazione Centrale Roma Termini on Via Le Einaudi, which is to the left when you are facing Piazza dei Cinquecento. In about 3 blocks or so you will arrive at Piazza della Repubblica. Once here, follow the circle around to the left until you reach V. V. E. Orlando and make a left. After about a block you will pass San Bernardo on your left. Continue on, cross over the main road Via XX Settembre. After crossing the street, on the left is Palazzo Barbereni. Past the palazzo, make a right onto Via Vittorio Veneto. (If you come to Fonta dei Tritone you have gone too far.) Continue down Via Vittorio Veneto for approximately 2 blocks, until you come to Santa Maria Concezione on the left (right before the road begins to curve.)

Santa Maria Concezione, a plain and inconspicuous church, was founded by Antonio Barberini an. In the church lies Barberini, buried close to the altar under a simple flagstone with an inscription “Here lies dust, ashes, nothing.” The realistic quote offers an introduction to the crypt found beneath the church where the bones of departed Capuchin friar’s decorate the walls of the chapels.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Tempio Maggiore di Rome (The Great Synagogue of Rome)

I decided to add a blog on the Great Synagogue of Rome although it is not technically a “church”. It does however, have a connection to the Catholic Church. On April 13th, 1986 Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue. It was the first synagogue ever visited by a Pope. Pope John Paul II came to visit with the intentions to cultivate the relationship between Judaism and Catholicism.
Ironically, the Great Synagogue is designed more like a church than a synagogue because of its enormous size and the layout with the altar in front of the congregation rather than in the shape of the menorah. In the early 1900’s the Jewish community demolished their five small synagogues, and decided to build a more extravagant synagogue as a symbol and celebration of their liberation. In the center of the Jewish Ghetto overlooking the Tiber River, stands the impressive Babylonian style temple. The unique aluminum square dome distinguishes the temple from the other buildings in Rome, and can be seen at a great distance. Inside, the starry ceiling opens up to a rainbow sky which symbolizes the covenant and invites you inside. The eclectic walls, decorated with Arabic and Hebrew symbols, offer a difference between the interior of synagogues and churches. This beautiful and holy temple is a wonderful tribute to the Jews freedom!

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

What is the difference between gelato and ice cream?

After so much taste tasting and description of gelato, I thought it important to research more the difference between gelato and ice cream. As I mentioned earlier gelato has 35% less air than ice cream, creating that denser creamier more flavorful taste. American ice cream, on the other hand, adds more air in order to produce a bigger quantity. Not only is the quality compromised by the quantity, but the butterfat content is significantly higher in American ice cream as well. The reason being that gelato is not homogenized and is made with whole cow milk instead of cream. On average gelato contains about 2-8% fat depending on the ingredients. On the contrary, ice cream is made with cream and contains 16-30% fat. So here you have it in plain text, gelato is the tastier and healthier of the two!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Ristorante in Trastevere

After a long morning of walking, the girls and I decided we need a nice authentic Italian lunch. What better place to go then our town of Trastevere. Seems like an easy decision but when you have hundreds of different restaurants that all look tempting the decision becomes more difficult.

Cruising down the cobblestone streets we stopped at nearly every ristorante to check out what their menu had to offer. Finally, we decided on a quaint ristorante. When we entered we found not a lick of English was spoken which confirmed we were in a truly authentic Italian ristorante.

So hungry and tired we all collapsed in our chairs. We sat outside with a cool breeze at our backs and the sun shinning, a picture perfect moment. So many types of pizza to choose from we decided to order a variety and share amongst the table.

I might dare to say it was the best pizza I have ever tasted; although bold it may be true. The four cheese pizza melted in our mouths, while the prosciutto and cheese left us smiling. When we were all said and done, there was not a morsel left on anyone’s plate. I guess you could say we enjoyed our meals!

Scala Santa and Sancta Sactorum

What a sight to see, Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum or the “holy steps”, which Christ was said to have ascended in Pontius Pilate’s house during his trial. When I tell you that no foot is allowed to touch the stairs, literally, people are crawling their way up twenty-eight stairs on their knees.

I first read about this phenomenon in Charles Dickens work Pictures From Italy, it was not a sight I could visualize in my head. Maybe it is because I, myself, have never seen or done anything of the sort. Dickens describes it as ridiculous, unpleasant and senseless. However, I do not totally agree with him. The reason being, if you look into the purpose, which is penance you may be able to understand why devout Christians put themselves through this pain.

As I stood at the bottom watching the penitents slowly make their way up the flight of marble stairs, I was in awe. The devout and brave penitents, many middle aged looked in pain as they lifted each knee slowly as the crept up to the top, while still stopping to pray.

Blue Ice Gelateria

While walking through Santa Maria in Trastevere, on a hot afternoon, I stumbled across a gelateria. A bright blue sign with big yellow letters read Blue Ice. Jessica, my teaching assistant had just recently told me that it was her favorite place to get gelato. So I thought I would give it a whirl.

The bright vibrant colors inside the store made me feel like a kid again. The wide array of gelato flavors added to the color, each piled high, giving you the urge to jump inside and indulge in every flavor. The artistry of the gelato display definitely deserves an A+.

Deciding which flavors to order is never an easy task. No matter what, I always come up with a wacky combination. Good thing for me it is acceptable and with no additional charge. My dilemma, with gelato is, I can not pass up a refreshing fruit flavored gelato on a hot summer day, but on the other hand, a little chocolate never hurts.

After a strenuous decision process, I had made up my mind. I said to the patient employee, fragola and stracciatella (strawberry and chocolate chip) per favore!

Wow, Jessica was right! It definitely is at the top of my gelateria tour list. Initially I was skeptical of Blue Ice because it is a chain, but please don’t let it discourage you. I highly suggest if you ever get the chance, experience Blue Ice for yourself!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Piazza di Santa Maria's Charm

The piazza gets much of its charm from the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The church faces the piazza and brings significance and aesthetics to the center of the piazza. Santa Maria in Trastevere was the first official Christian worship place built in Rome. It dates back to the 3rd century founded by Pope Callixtus I.

The exterior depicts 12th century mosaics of the Virgin Mary with Jesus and 10 women holding lamps at the top of the Basilica which were done by Pietro Cavallini. The aesthetics and importance of this Basilica brings a lot of people through the Piazza, especially during the day. As I observed, there are many groups that walk through the Piazza who pause at the fountain and continue on into the museum. It is very important because otherwise the Piazza could be missed, considering it is down narrow alley ways and is not very visible to a travelers-eye. The beautiful facade of the church with the fountain in front is reason enough to make a visit to Piazza Santa in Trastevere!

Sorrento vs. Roman Gelato

While staying in Sorrento, we stopped at a gelateria off the town’s main street called Davide Gelato. Recommended by the famous Rick Steves’, we knew he wouldn’t steer us wrong. It was time to compare and contrast Rome’s gelato to Sorrento’s. Rome has many more gelateria’s but for Sorrento size is in close comparison. Limoncello is Sorrento’s claim to fame, however it is not all they are good at.

The gelato was surprisingly very smooth and fluffy. The vast number of flavors was overwhelming. Each of us ordered different flavors and shared with one another. The frutti di bosco, which of course I got, was full of flavor and was exactly the right consistency. I could taste the real fruit flavors. After a big heavy Italian meal there is nothing better to cleanse your pallet. I was very impressed with Sorrento’s gelato. It definitely gives Rome a run for its money in terms of gelato!

La Fonte Della Salute

After a long weekend of travel and a warm Sunday night it seemed only right to sit outside in our bustling town and enjoy gelati. We decided to try a new place on Viale Trastevere, the main drag in our town. As we walked down the street filled with people eating outside at sidewalk restaurants it was a real testament to the fact that Italians do in fact eat dinner very late.

We continued dodging our way through the crowds until we came across La Fonte Della Salute. It looked delicious and it was very crowded so we decided to give it a whirl. Quickly we learned the old lesson, looks can be deceiving or don’t judge a book by its cover.

As I have told you before frutti di bosco is my all time favorite gelato. However, this time it was extremely disappointing. The consistency just wasn’t right. The best kind is smooth, creamy and very refreshing. This frutti di bosco however, was icy and had way too many seeds in it with little flavor. Although it was nice to sit outside on the sidewalks of Trastevere with my friends as we took a study break, the gelato just wasn’t up to par!

An afternoon in Piazza di Santa Maria

The pouring rain had finally ceased and the sun was peaking through the clouds. I desperately needed to get out of my apartment, so I ventured to Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. On my way down the back alley way, I stumbled across a group of kids about 15 years old outside of their school. For the couple of minutes that I observed their interactions I noticed friends, both male and females, greeting each other with a kiss on both cheeks. This type of interaction definitely is not a social norm in America. At this point on my journey I really felt immersed in the Italian culture.

As I approached the Piazza I encountered another strange interaction. A beggar came swiftly out of a side alley to my right with a plastic bright blue dog bowl with a couple coins in it. Startled, I quickly looked at him and then diverted my eyes and continued into the center of the Piazza where I took a seat at the base of the fountain.

I sat quietly, as if I were a fly on the wall, watching and observing the Piazza on a Thursday afternoon after a huge rain storm. The trickling of the fountain was the background music to the chattering of three Italian teenagers next to me. I sat immersing myself more into the total scene. I noticed tour groups frequently walking through the Piazza, some with tour guides, others just taking the beauty in themselves. Meandering throughout the crowds were locals taking the opportunity to walk their dogs before the rain began again. I have found people watching to be the best way to fully take in Trastevere’s community life and interactions.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


After visiting numerous churches in Rome I began noticing at the top of each sarcophagus three large letters engraved, D. O. M. Seeing it repetitively, I knew there had to be significance behind it. Assuming that it had something to do with Latin, a language that I had previously taken; I decided to research the meaning and where it came from.

I discovered it is in fact a Latin phrase, deo optimum maximo, meaning “to the greatest and best God.” The phrase dates back to the era when Roman’s were polytheist. The phrase originally referred to Jove, who was the patron deity of the Roman state.

Centuries later the revered phrase was still used. However, through the adoption of Christianity the Romans became monotheists and the honorable phrase no longer referred to Jove. Rather, to the Christian God meaning, “to God, most good, most great.”

Therefore, the phrase is commonly found on Renaissance-era churches. Thus explaining why it is so common in Italian churches. So, if you get a chance to go to an Italian church keep your eyes out for the abbreviation D.O.M!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Santa Maria sopra Minerva is my favorite church that I have visited in Rome. This church is the only Gothic architecture in Rome that I have seen. The building was actually built above ancient ruins, hence the Italian word sopra meaning above the temple of Minerva.

The first time I visited Minerva, I was in awe of the enormous structure and its overwhelming visage. It seemed impossible to capture and take in all the church had to offer. It has the most magnificent ceiling I have ever seen. The high deep royal blue T-shaped vaulted ceilings are intricate with gold stars and paintings of saints; create a warm feeling throughout the church.

The glass windows that are placed in the top of each archway down the nave of the church with the sun shining through them really is a sight to see. Surprisingly, this is the first church in Rome that I have seen with glass windows.

The ceiling and glass windows, as seen in the pictures, alone are reason enough to visit Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Sunday, 18 May 2008


My first gelato experience was to the well known Giolitti Gelatoria near the Pantheon and Hilda’s tower. I actually came across Giolitti while searching for Hilda’s tower. I had heard about it through my good friend who had just traveled in Rome. She specifically told me to go to this gelatoria and order Frutti di Bosco.

After a long search for Hilda’s tower we found it and decided to reward ourselves with a gelato from Giolitti’s. Since this was an authentic Italian gelatoria we had some difficulty figuring out how the ordering worked because no one spoke English.

After observing other customers we realized that they do it differently here. You pay first and then order at the gelato counter. Once we went to order we ran into another problem, all the flavors were in Italian. Fortunately, my friend had told me to try the Frutti di Bosco so I knew that was a safe bet. We sat outside at the tables with other customers who enjoyed their gelati on this hot Wednesday afternoon and decided that we would be returning soon to Giolitti’s!


What else could I ask for I am living in the most beautiful city with the best ice cream, also know as gelato. Before I left for Rome, I must have heard it a 100 times from many different people, make sure you eat Italian gelato. I have to say they were right. The gelato here is the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. It is so refreshing to treat yourself to a gelato after exploring the streets of Italy all day on a hot afternoon.

Interested to know what the amazing Italian gelato was made of I researched to see what I could find. It is as simple as milk, sugar and flavorings. However, the reason for its density and extreme flavor is because it is made up of less than 35% air. There are many minor variations in the ingredients depending on what part of Italy the gelato is made. Regardless, it is definitely an Italian treasure!

A Night in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

I returned to the piazza on a Sunday night to see what was happening. Surprisingly there were a lot more people than I had expected. It was a beautiful night with a refreshing summer breeze settling in. As we walked down the narrow alley ways that lead to the Piazza, every ristorante was busy as groups of people wandered the street. There are so many different restaurants the decision of where to eat can take as long as your dinner itself, as we soon found out. Everywhere looks so delicious and authentic, which is also good because you can’t go wrong.

We wanted something quick, so we finally decided on a little bar restaurant. It was perfect just what we were looking for, a casual dining setting with great service and delicious food and an added bonus of watching the Rome’s soccer game. After dinner as we were walking back to our apartment, a man from Yugoslavia stop us. He first asked if we spoke English and then proceeded to ask us for one cent so he could buy bread. Coincidently, I had left over bread from my meal and was happy to share with him. It was a great experience and can not wait to go back!

Piazza di Santa Maria

While exploring Trastevere, I stumbled across my favorite area in town, the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Tucked away in the narrow cobble-stoned alleyways of Trastevere is a bustling piazza. Here I found great little cafés, pizzerias and gelateria’s, but the best part about the piazza is feeling completely submersed in true Italian culture.
In the middle of the piazza is a beautiful fountain. The fountain has an octagonal base with stairs that are full of people of all ages socializing. There is often some type of entertainment in the piazza. My first trip to the piazza a magician was in front of the fountain attracting the attention of many people, including mine. It is definitely a great people watching spot. I hope to gain more knowledge about the art of Italian interaction at this piazza!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio

Around the corner from our school is Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio. This was the first of many churches that I visited in Rome. It was built in the early 17th century and dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola who was the founder of the Jesuit order. The aesthetics of this Baroque church are breathtaking.
The aspect of the church that sets it apart from the others is Andrea Pozzo's massive fresco painting that stretches across the whole ceiling. The painting, as you can see in the picture, is majestic and creates a feeling that the church is opening up to a bright sky with 3D figures that look as if they are floating on clouds. There is a dark marble circle in the middle of the floor which is the best spot to observe the illusion that Pozzo created. The church resembles the Jesuit mother church Il Gesu, which I plan to go visit soon!

Churches in Rome

I have been in Rome for four days now, and I am just in awe at the plethora of churches that are found throughout the streets and alleys of Rome. I know that Rome is the eternal city and seat of the Catholic Church, but I could never have anticipated the presence Catholicism has in this city.

Every turn I make as I walk through the streets there is another magnificent church to explore. Being raised catholic and going through twelve years of Catholic schooling could be the reason that I find the churches such a prominent and important theme throughout Rome. Regardless, these beautiful buildings are inviting and have so much to offer to those who visit. As my sightseeing continues I will add comments on the Roman Churches that I visit.