Archive | Rome RSS feed for this section

30 Little Things I Miss About Rome

28 May

Some of these are sarcastic, some are not. You decide.

  1. Nuns
  2. Discovering my 2 euro wine turned to vinegar over night
  3. Walking down to The Spot for a 1 euro shot at 8 pm just because I can
  4. How nothing ever goes right, because hey.. its italy
  5. The H bus/Terravision
  6. Getting compliments everywhere I go
  7. Being called “Bella” by charming Italian men
  8. Having an excuse to make every day a special occasion
  9. Peroni
  10. Being a minority
  11. The people who automatically think “mafia” when they hear I’m from Chicago
  12. My apartment complex’s adorable security guards
  13. 2 euro slices from “The Brothers”
  14. Trekking through town with pounds of groceries in ripping bags and duffels
  15. Penis shaped pasta
  16. People observing life out their windows
  17. Twisting my ankle, everyday, on the cobblestones
  18. Burning my throat on grappa after every meal
  19. Having to wear my purse under my jacket, along with multiple secret money pouches
  20. Being on first name, facebook, cheek kissing basis with the local bar owners
  21. Having to hang my laundry to dry, but not being able to hang it out the window.. What’s the fun in that?!
  22. Planning to be hungover for an excuse to indulge in Chinese buffet with no shame
  23. The low life club promoters
  24. Clapping when a Ryan Air plane lands
  25. Eating a whole pizza by yourself is normal and expected, and you’re looked down on if you don’t!
  26. Trying a new gelato flavor or Italian pastry every day because you need to try them all before your trip is over
  27. Re-wearing outfits over and over.. and over until the next Zara shopping spree
  28. When the Tiber smells like the sewage
  29. Popping bottles at every major monument
  30. Using the excuse, “When in Rome,” for every irrational decision

Study Abroad Bucket List (Revisited)

23 May

Study Abroad Bucket List

#1 Make a guard at Buckingham palace laugh (CHECK)


#2 Enjoy a “treat” in an Amsterdam coffee shop (CHECK)

#3 St. Patty’s Day in Dublin

#4 Go to an AC Milan soccer game (Did go to an Italian soccer game though!)

#5 Walk the red light district (CHECK)

#6 Spend Easter in Vatican City (CHECK)


#7 Cliff dive off the Amalfi Coast (CHECK)


#8 See Fun. in Rome

#9 Recreate the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover

#10 Meet a millionaire at Monte Carlo Casino

#11 Go to Carnevale in Venice

#12 Ride a hot air balloon/sky dive

#13 Make lifelong friendships (CHECK)




#14 Take a picture of any city from a high rooftop (CHECK)


#15 Revisit wineries I interned at in Tuscany and Piedmont (CHECK)


#16 Meet relatives in Rome (CHECK)

The family

The family

#17 Take a doubledecker bus tour of London

#18 Leave a note in Juliet’s wall in Verona

#19 Pregame my flight home (CHECK.. I don’t recommend this)

#20 See Jersey Boys or Les Mis in London

#21 See Platform 9 3/4

#22 Tour of BBC Television Centre before it closes

#23 Guiness or Jameson distillery tour (Heineken-CHECK)


#24 Ride the London Eye (CHECK)


#25 Ride a vespa..without crashing (very common)

#26 Ride a camel in Morocco

#27 Hike Cinque Terre (CHECK)


#28 Go to a Fashion Week event in Paris, London, or Milan

#29 Watch the sunset from the Duomo (CHECK)

#30 Make my mark on the Lennon Wall in Prague (CHECK)

Looks like there are still a couple things I can add to my “Before I die” Bucket List!

Dear Nonna,

29 Apr

I’m writing to you almost a year to the anniversary of your passing. Words can’t describe how difficult it’s been not being able to share this unbelievable experience with you. As my time in Rome quickly winds down, I have started to realize the toll it’s taken on me. Specifically, I wish I could watch your face light up as I explain my experience meeting our Roman family.

Our family and our roots definitely influenced my decision to study in Rome. Hearing you, dad, and Auntie Janet tell stories of your time with our family in Rome made me jealous and I felt that I deserved something similar. Unforgettable. Something I could pass on to my children and grandchildren. As we have seen, time is precious and we can’t put off to tomorrow what we can do today. And so I didn’t.

Yesterday was my last Sunday in Rome. I should be studying for finals, but how do I convince myself that it’s Finals Week when I haven’t even been able to convince myself that I’ve actually been in school this semester. Having met your cousin, Cinzia, in the center of Rome for lunch a few times this semester, she thought this would be the best time to organize for me to meet the rest of the family.


We lucked out with the nicest day I think Rome has seen this year. After a quick stroll through town – graced by an accordion player over the Tiber, past the Pantheon, down Via del Corso, and through Piazza del Spagna (man, I’m gonna miss that walk) – I hopped on the Metro line for the 2nd time all semester.

Cinzia and her boyfriend Massimo picked me up from a stop on Via Appia and we drove out of the city. To my surprise, we made a quick pit stop before lunch. They introduced me to Castel Gandolfo: the summer and vacation residence of the Pope located on the breathtaking Lago Albano.

Pope Benedict, where you at!

Pope Benedict, where you at!


Cinzia and Massimo

Cinzia and Massimo

Pope Benedict is still there from when he was helicoptered after his resignation!

On his way to Castel Gandolfo

On his way to Castel Gandolfo

Massimo doesn’t speak much English, but wanted to use what he knew as much as he could whereas I’m the same way with my Italian, so we got by perfectly! It was beautiful to see a piece of Rome, outside of the loud and hectic city.

We went on to meet the rest of the family at the restaurant where they told me they go whenever they have something to celebrate, Tigellino, in the town of Genzano. I met Cinzia’s brother Pepe, his wife and their 16 year old daughter, and your first cousin Maria and her husband, Franco. The minute I kissed Pepe he said right away that I’m my father, the big smile was the dead giveaway. Everyone looks well and healthy. Franco was a big jokester, and Maria definitely reminded me of you, Nonna. With her big nootsies, culo, and smile, it felt like I was sitting next to you again. Her granddaughter kept leaning her head on Maria’s shoulder and kissing her cheek and it reminded me of smooching your cheeks and jiggling your culo every time I walked in the house.


They went all out for this seafood lunch. Paired with our regional spumante we had calamari, anchovies, squid, mini fried squid, marinated eggplant, and fried baccala to start, then linguine alle vongole, gnocchi alle vongole e gamberi, and spaghetti alle pescatore, insalate miste, sorbetto and cake. As I’ve learned, no meal is complete without an espresso and glass of grappa to wash it all down.

Cinzia and Franco with their sorbetto

Cinzia and Franco with their sorbetto

We passed around pictures of your mom, Nonna Concetta, my parents when they visited on their honeymoon (Big Rich rockin a fanny pack), Auntie Janet when she was Tina’s age and visited, and miscellaneous pictures of Uncle Benny, Auntie Betty, and the girls.

Auntie Janet

Auntie Janet

Blurry, but mom and dad's honeymoon visit

Blurry, but mom and dad’s honeymoon visit

They told me all about their place in Fossalto and how much fun they had packing everyone into the tiny house when everyone flew out to visit. They asked about EVERYONE: your brother and Auntie Betty, Jo, Sue, Mari, Theresa, (whipped out pictures of Lisa), all of your sons, and was asking about Auntie Janet and Tina. I wish I had everyone with me to share this memory with.


All of the men dipped out quickly because the Roma v. Siena game was starting and they needed to get back to the house before they missed anything. We trailed behind and met them at Maria and Franco’s house in Ariccia. 

DSCN3024 DSCN3026

It was a beautiful property, screw Florida, I want to retire here. The minute I got out of the car, Franco started showing me all of his proud garden work. From the nutmeg tree to the pomegranate and cherry trees, to the mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and pepper plants. For a second, I thought I was back in my backyard and Big Rich had aged a good 30 years. I got a tour of the house and they pointed out which furniture belonged to your aunt, they even have a beautiful pillow case framed from her wedding night. It really made me want to come home and see what I can find in all of your stuff.

The family

The family

Franco and Maria

Franco and Maria


It kills me that I can’t directly share this memory with you, but I know you were looking down on us and probably got pissed when I didn’t pass a piece of cake up to you. Franco and Maria were already asking me when I would be back, and it saddened me that I couldn’t say. I wish I didn’t have to leave Rome. I will never forget yesterday.

I had been looking forward to it for weeks and now that it’s over, it has definitely fueled the sadness of my departure.

My sweet Nonna

My sweet Nonna

I miss you everyday Nonna and I love you,


Buona Pasqua da Roma!

31 Mar

Happy Easter everyone!!


The Easter bunny was incredibly generous this holiday bringing me to St. Peter’s Square to celebrate Easter with our new Pope Francis and an estimated 250,000 other Catholics!


Photo Credit: Emma Petit

Photo Credit: Emma Petit

Obviously I miss coloring eggs, our annual Easter egg hunt (that I’ll never grow out of), and my aunt’s famous jello eggs, but I think this Easter took the cake! Which reminds me.. I’m missing “Lamb Cake” too. Wahh 😥

We were up (way too) bright and early this morning to make sure we were right up close to the Vatican. From 7:30-10:15 we stood around, twiddled our thumbs, I may or may not have shamelessly flipped through a Cosmo magazine in the middle of the jam packed Square, and our friend Tom fell asleep standing up.. Classic “Rat Race” move.


Bells were sounding and festive music blared throughout the Square until Pope Francis came out! Mass lasted a long 2 hours and I probably understood 5% of it; the English and whatever Italian and Spanish I could pick up. I was waiting for him to break out with a little, “I love it when you call me Big Papa, throw your hands in the air if you a true player,” but he pretty much stuck with the program.



It was so weird not exchanging the sign of peace with my family, but my friends made up for it! Allison and I smooched on the cheeks and then we exchanged peace with a nun, a first for me! I didn’t expect to get communion because of the insane amount of people, but turned out we did. At the end, the Pope sped around the entire square in his Pope Mobile. Everyone was going crazy, waving, and cheering and the little man was waving back as he zoomed up and down the aisles. He stopped along the way to kiss babies and the one that moved many people was the young severely disabled boy that Pope Francis passionately embraced and kissed.



This Easter was definitely a change of pace and scenery for me, but I was so blessed to be a part of it. After Skyping my family (and their new Jamaican friends Ruben and Latoya..) as they enjoy an Easter getaway on the magical island of Jamaica, I’m very grateful to have such a great group of old and new friends with whom I can share this holiday away from my family!


Until next time,

Buona Pasqua! Ciao!

I do like a good Catholic boy!

16 Mar

I witnessed it all!

Conclave Day 1:

I woke up in an overall fantastic mood knowing that within the coming days we would have a new Pope and I am a 10 minute walk from the Vatican to witness it all! There was not a doubt in my mind that we were going to the Vatican for photojournalism class. When I left my apartment in the morning the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, so I obviously put on my fur vest and left without an umbrella or hooded jacket.. or jacket with sleeves for that much. Mother nature decided to slap me in the face as it started to torrentially downpour the minute we started walking to the Vatican. As we crossed into Vatican City it started to hail! So not my finest moment, but at least I didn’t SMELL like a wet dog..


Fellow Golden Eagle, Seamus, lacking rain gear too!

Fellow Golden Eagle, Seamus, lacking rain gear too!

It was only a few hours before the first vote and all 115 cardinals gathered for the last Vatican mass before the election. Large groups gathered around the big screens to watch, news teams scattered around the square to continue prepping for the big day, and I ran around trying to capture any early action that I could.


As we walked past the huge two-story news tent across the square (eyes peeled for Diane Sawyer) I had a sudden urge to flash the press. Don’t worry, I didn’t, but in my defense I was just trying to keep them all alert and awake for the big event!




Modern day conclave

Modern day conclave


It poured throughout the entire day which I took as a sign that today would not be the day. I went to buy a 2 Euro bottle of champagne just to be ready (Oh yeah, big spender), but when nightfall came and the rain hadn’t stopped I just crossed my fingers that the smoke would be black and I stayed inside. I didn’t take my eyes off the Live online “Smoke Cam” and around 8 PM when black smoke billowed from the chimney, which you could hardly see against the black sky, I was relieved. Many predictions pegged day 2 as “The Day”, so being my busiest day of the week I just hoped it would wait until after class.


Conclave Day 2:

Could this be the day?

I’m beginning to realize how detrimental not having an iPhone is to my sanity (explanation in future post). Without it I feel like I’m completely missing out on the world around me. Not having the breaking news updates straight from Twitter on my iPhone was actually making me panic.

The first vote happened just as I rolled out of bed. I was nervous that the smoke would be white because then Rome would have to witness “The Fro”/my early morning appearance.. not pretty. Luckily, for the people, it was black. Wednesdays I have class straight through until 7:15 which was cutting it close. Rumor had it that the new pope was likely to be elected between 5:30 and 7, so I was getting pretty anxious. I made every person I sat next to in class turn on the Live Smoke Cam and every time the bells rang we all freaked out!

And then finally.. 7:05 PM came around and faintly through the classroom windows I heard bells ringing like crazy. It took a few seconds until everyone heard it and started fidgeting to check social media and the Smoke Cam (LOL at the irony of being in a social media lecture). I turned to the girl next to me and we froze as the white smoke poured out of the chimney through her computer screen. We bolted out of that classroom and into the street where stampedes of people were running towards the Vatican! I felt like I was in a movie. With my purse, camera, and umbrella in hand I started sprinting with the rest of the crowd!! Surprisingly I didn’t loose my footing on the slick cobblestones. People were pouring out of alleyways, running in front of cars, and I’m pretty sure some people even parked their cars in the middle of the street and ditched them. That was the moment when it all became real.

As we entered the Vatican City walls all we could hear was “Il Papa Il Papa!!” We ran in through the left pillars of St. Peter’s Square and into the pit of umbrellas. Holding onto Allison’s back, we weaved and bobbed all the way to the front center. How we didn’t lose an eye along the way is a miracle. You could cut the excitement in the Square with a knife. Smiles were glued to everyone’s faces, including mine.

Here’s the crowd awaiting the new Pope!





People in the crowd were from all over. There were French flags waving, Brazilian flags, Latin and South Americans, Americans, obviously tons of enthusiastic Italians, and many more. Allison made the mistake of forgetting that most of the world has at least a basic knowledge of English, so she starts rambling on about how the Spanish speaking priests next to her are so hot, “Nothing worse than a hot priest, but nothing better.” 2 minutes later they all start speaking fluently in English. Awkward!

There was nothing but happiness in the air. Even when a giant 7 foot priest cut in front of a group of us blocking our view, all the Italians started joking with him and everyone was laughing. In America.. that wouldn’t fly.



The crowd was relatively quiet for the amount of people that were there. Just after 8 all of the lights inside flicked on and the crowd went nuts! He’s coming! Little children got on top of their parents shoulders and families grabbed on to each other in anticipation. When the doors under the red velvet drapes finally opened and the senior cardinal announced, “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope) cheers filled the square! It immediately went silent as everyone was waiting to hear who it was (Al and I were banking on un Papa Nero). When it was announced that the new Pope was Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina you would have though the man in front of us had just won the lottery,

Watch here!

Il Papa Francesco is the first Jesuit pope. First from the Western hemisphere. First from the Southern hemisphere. First from South America. And the first Francesco!

The cardinals, all cloaked in red, rushed to the windows and surrounded the new Pope from both sides. The first words from his mouth were, “Fratelli e Sorelli, Buona Sera” (Brothers and sisters, good evening). I was picking up some of what he was saying, but it would have been nice to have a translator on hand. He asked everyone to take a moment to pray for him as he takes on this huge responsibility and position. He was so humble.. and an adorable little guy 😉

Quick clip of Pope Francesco

DSCN1350 DSCN1352 DSCN1360 DSCN1355

The sea of cell phones means modern day conclave

The sea of cell phones means a 21st century conclave

He only spoke for about 15 minutes, but the crowd could not have seemed happier with the decision. As we all pushed our way out I heard one man say, “Well there’s probably a few cardinals in there that can let out a sigh of relief.” News stations were everywhere and my tv broadcast juices were flowing! I brushed past ABC 7’s Alan Krashesky as he made his way out from the pit.

But if I wasn’t going to be interviewed, I definitely wasn’t leaving without finding someone from Good Morning America. From a distance I spotted the back of Josh Elliott and went in for the kill! He was elevated on the first level of the press tent, but when we yelled his name he turned around with a huge smile on his face, waved, and chatted with us for a little. The icing on top of the cake. He better remember this face when I apply at GMA! Josh! Gimme yo job!


Being a Catholic from a Jesuit University and witnessing this historical moment, as well as the weeks leading up to it, has been more than I could have ever imagined would happen during my semester abroad! I was at President Obama’s first inauguration in D.C. witnessing history for the United States, but this experience in Rome takes the cake!

I will never forget March 13, 2013. Viva Il Papa!

Update: Papa Benedetto XVI

12 Feb

I spoke too soon!

Yesterday when I went to the Vatican, the afternoon of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation announcement, I was shocked, confused, and thought I was going crazy. It was just like any average day. Today on the other hand, was the exact opposite. People must have traveled to Rome over night, or were just hiding inside from the storm yesterday because today the square was packed with students, families, nuns, and reporters.

Longest line I've seen this year!

Longest line I’ve seen this year!




Press was everywhere! It was a mad house! But it’s true, this is the bread and butter of their work. The reason for their existence as reporters in Rome. I walked past many reporters interviewing nuns..


I too had my fair share of fun with the nuns! My favorite was this nun below who stood right in front of the church for at least an hour: crying, praying, and grasping onto her rosary with all her might.





With the Italian elections right around the corner, the church opposing homosexual marriage more than ever, and Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement, the Italian news outlets have more than enough to work with. I caught this woman leaning near the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square reading today’s paper with the front page photograph that everyone is talking about!


Last night while I was in class, the lightening was striking, the thunder was booming, and students who were walking in looked as if they had just taken a dip in the Tiber. The storm was insane, but little did I think of the symbolism of the storm until this image was released.

Lightning striking down on the tip of St. Peter's Basilica (Source: The Guardian)

Lightning striking down on the tip of St. Peter’s Basilica (Source: The Guardian)

All I can say is God is pretty pissed. But many others are also upset and shocked that he would step down in the midst of many controversies, including the sex and child abuse scandals. Nonetheless it will be very interesting to see who’s next.. Will our next Pope be black? YA NEVA KNOW!

(Source: Mirror News)

(Source: Mirror News)

Until next time, Ciao!!

History Unfolding

12 Feb


HOLYYYYYYYYY S*@#!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just this morning Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation due to “advanced age”! AND I’M RIGHT DOWN THE STREET! As much as I was shocked to hear this the minute I woke up this morning, I really didn’t understand the hype of the news until I read that the last Pope to resign was in 1415 (600 years ago)!! I was actually freaking out when I found out. Lots of “OMG”, “NO WAY”, “IS THIS REAL LIFE”s were flying through my apartment this morning.

This is terrible, but the minute I found out I immediately thought to myself, “Wow, I’m literally living out Eurotrip the movie.. except the Pope didn’t ‘die’.”

“We don’t need no water let the motherF*@!er burn!” 😀

Pope Benedict is scheduled to resign at 8 P.M. on February 28th and luckily I’m in town that Thursday! I’m really shocked that he chose to announce this right before the beginning of Lent, but the Vatican spokesman said we will have a new Pope before Easter (which I will be here for too!) I feel bad being so excited about this because of the circumstances, but the Pope, 85, explained the reasoning of his resignation,

“Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.” – Pope Benedict XVI

(Source: The Telegraph)

(Source: The Telegraph)

It felt so cool knowing the big news before anyone at home was even awake (That’s the news reporter in me)! I even walked into Italian class at 1:30 pm and my Italian professor had NO IDEA! Meanwhile, all my young American classmates are gabbing about it.. oh the power of Twitter.

I thought there would be more press and commotion at the Vatican today, so a couple of us walked over between classes, but it was just like any average day. A bit disappointing, but I know as soon as the election starts and Easter approaches the chaos will arise. I’m really looking forward to seeing the election smoke from the Vatican.. the littlest things can amuse me.

I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m Catholic from a Jesuit University studying in Rome and witnessing history being made.

With Ash Wednesday right around the corner, some words of faith from the Pope,

“We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.”