The Final Days

(7-3-17 – 7-11-17)

Hello friends!  Sorry for the lapse in posting during my final week in Italy – I was mostly relaxing with friends, so there wasn’t much to report.  I did get to spend two wonderful days in Pompeii with Chris and the rest of the project, experiencing a bit of that archaeology life.  They even let me move some really fucking old amphorae!  It was really interesting the see the other, non-digging, side to archaeology – everyone sitting around on laptops sorting through their own data.  Less glamorous, perhaps, but arguable more important.  

On July 5, I took the train back to Rome to spend some time there with friends.  I basically did nothing during the day but watch Downton Abbey on (Italian) Netflix, but then met up in the evening with my friends to see my favorite Bernini sculptures at the Borghese Gallery or to try a new gelato place near the Pantheon.  

Over the weekend of July 7th, we drove to Sperlonga, where Chris and our other friend Leigh met up with us for some beach time and a peek at Emperor Tiberius’ fabulous villa and dining grotto.  It was a fun weekend full of good food and new friends – we got to meet an American from Cincinnati who had recently retired to Itri, a town nearby, which was really fun!

After the weekend, I spent one more full day in Rome lounging around (i.e. finishing Downton Abbey) before flying home.  While I always have a hard time leaving Italy, this parting seemed less bittersweet than normal.  Perhaps it was because I had spent time with friends after saying goodbye to my husband.  Regardless, I hardly cried at all at the airport OR on the flight – last year I spent most of the flight just leaking tears.  Now I am back in the States, but not at home!  That’s right – after barely 12 hours in Cincinnati, I set out the very next morning for Carlisle, Pennsylvania, home to Dickinson College and to the Dickinson College Latin Workshop, affectionately known as Latin Camp.  Latin enthusiasts from all over gather for five days to do nothing but read Latin and enjoy each other’s company.  It is a wonderful experience – enlightening and rejuvenating.  This year we are reading Prudentius’ Psychomachia, an early Christian work about the battles between vices and virtues.  I’ve never read anything this late before (it was written around 390 AD), so this is a really fascinating experience for me. 

As much as I am loving being around my fellow Latin nerds, I am ready to be home to relax for a while.  But I hope you, dear reader, have enjoyed traveling with me this summer!  See you again next year!

Days 20-22 – Rome

(6-27-17 – 6-29-17)

Days 20 through 22 were a mishmash of things.  Day 20 was another relaxing day – we spent the morning in the apartment then walked up to see my favorite building, the Pantheon, before grabbing a drink at La Proscuitteria then dinner at Flavio al Velavevodetto with some friends.  

On Day 21, we drove up the coast to Cosa to see two fish salting vat sites.  One was on the beach by an industrial complex, which was a bit scary, and the other was in a sort of nature reserve full of pine trees, which was really serene and lovely.  We were gone most of the day but returned in time to meet the parents of my best friend Louise, whose time in Rome happily overlapped with ours by a bit.  

Day 22 was spent with Louise’s parents, Polly and Neil, seeing ancient Rome’s greatest hits.  We walked around the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, and the Forum, the visiting the Capitoline Museums.  They were absolutely wonderful – asking lots of questions and smiling indulgently when Chris answered with maybe a bit more detail than they were expecting.  We love showing people around Rome, so it was a joy to spend the day with them.  

For dinner that evening, we started Chris’s Epic Birthday Weekend.  Since he would be celebrating his golden birthday (turning 30 on the 30th), I wanted to plan an extra special surprise for him.  Part one of the surprise was meeting up with Chris Noon, who had been the best man at our wedding, and his girlfriend Helena for dinner (they are English and live in London, so it’s pretty easy for them to pop on over to the continent for the weekend, plus they are lovely people!).  

It was really touching to see the reunion of these two friends.  Chris and Noon (and I, actually) worked together on a dig ten years ago or so in the Sangro Valley and have been really close ever since.  Chris usually tries to meet up with Noon once a year during the summer since he’s coming to Europe anyway, but often the timing doesn’t work for one reason or another.  But despite the distance, both in space and time, the two are still really good friends and I love that.  

During dinner, we revealed the itinerary for the weekend (Noon and I had been planning this for a while): driving to Montepulciano, about two hours north of Rome, then visiting a few wineries in the area.  Stay tuned to find out how the weekend went!  😉

Day 19 – Rome

(6-26-17)

Our first full day in Rome was another R&R day, though we spent most of the day doing laundry.  We hung around our friends’ apartment and Chris caught up on some work while I read.  

I haven’t gotten quite as much opportunity to sit around and read as I did last year.  Our trip this year is a week shorter than last and we visited significantly fewer sites, which meant that Chris didn’t have to run around and work so much but also meant that I didn’t get to sit around and read while he did.  But, I have finished two books while we’ve been on the road.  I read Mozart in the Jungle initially because I really like the show (a successful show about classical music and musicians?!  Yes, please!! ), but the book is so much more interesting than just an narrative of one player’s experience in various musical groups.  The author, Blair Tindall, gives a ton of info about the development of orchestras and interest in classical music in the United States and it is fascinating!  She also goes really in depth into the financial side of things, and that is also really interesting.  If you like the show and also want to learn more about how classical music really works in America, I highly recommend it. (It comes with a really long bibliography, too, which means I might be reading more on the subject!)

I also just recently finished In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri.  She also wrote The Namesake, which is about a boy growing up in America with immigrant parents.  I loved that book and was excited to read In Other Words.  It’s about her journey to learn Italian and was actually written in and published originally in Italian.  It seems sort of strange for an American born woman of Indian descent who is a successful novelist in English to want to write a book in Italian, but the finished product is sublime.  She narrates the story of her love affair with Italian, and I felt such a kinship with every sentence it was almost as if I had written it myself (not in Italian, though; and I also read the English translation, which had its own fascinating explanation). 

In the book, Lahiri talks a lot about her own relationship with languages – how she grew up speaking Bengali at home but English at school, and how she felt false in both languages.  For her, Italian was something purely of her own choice, and almost more real for her than the other two.  I feel like my language experience is very similar – my mother is an immigrant who grew up speaking a language different from English and who tried to instill a bit of her own culture in her children through that language.  I never truly learned to speak Thai, though.  My father, an American who never bothered to learn his wife’s first language, told my mother to stop speaking to us in Thai because he couldn’t understand what she was saying to us.  Due to his ridiculous insecurities, I do not have access to certain parts of my mother’s – and therefore my – heritage.  Later, when I was in my teens, he scolded me for not being able to speak to my cousins or grandparents and all I felt was confusion, frustration, and anger – wasn’t it because of him that I could not?  And now I have to figure out for myself – can I embrace the Thai side of me without knowing the language?  How?

Language is such a funny, fickle thing and I wonder if it can ever truly be mastered. I admire Lahiri’s journey ardently – she has done what I do desperately want to do.  People always seem to think I know Rome and Italy very well because I have spent a large part of my life traveling here.  On the one hand, it’s true – I have visited more ancient sites than most people realize exist –  but on the other hand, I can’t necessarily recommend specific places to eat or stay.  People always ask me what my favorite restaurant in Rome is and I have no answer; I’m always discovering new places.  

So every time I return, I feel that need that Lahiri must have felt – that deep desire to throw yourself headlong into this city and learn every inch of it, to become as familiar with it as you are with yourself.  I long for Chris to have the opportunity to live here for a year or two so that I can finally start, but in the meantime, these brief summer visits and DuoLingo will have to do.  

Day 18 – Lisbon to Rome

(6-25-17)

Day 18 was fairly uneventful.  We packed up, headed to the airport, then flew to Rome, my amazing home away from home. As I say almost every time I return – this place makes me happy like no other place on earth can.

We arrived in the early evening and hung out for a bit with our hostesses – we’re crashing with two women from Chris’ program who were gracious enough to let us stay for a few days.  After that, we went out for drinks, then out for dinner, each with a separate group of people.  It turned out that we were overlapping with some friends for that night only, so in a bit of a social blitz, we got to spend time with both!

That is certainly one thing I come to miss during these long journeys.  While Chris and I do travel very well together, he is pretty introverted whereas I am…not.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am an extraordinarily social person – I love hanging out with friends over a bottle of wine, and I also love meeting and talking to new people as well.  Sometimes, we happen to fall into conversations with fellow travelers (John and Sally, our Australian buddies we met in Morocco last year come to mind), but mostly, we keep to ourselves while on the road.  Chris is perfectly happy to only talk to me, and I also enjoy using our travel time as a way for us to reconnect and bond.  

At the end of almost three weeks, however, I start to really crave interactions with humans other than my husband, bonus points if they are English speakers.  So while it was hot and we were a bit tired from the flight, I immensely enjoyed our dinner with a woman from my high school whom I had not seen since we had graduated.  We just happened to be in Rome at the same time for this one evening so I asked if she wanted to meet up.  It turned out to be such a nice time, getting to know her again as an adult.  As we walked back to our apartment later that night, I could tell that Chris was exhausted, but I was strangely energized by the evening.  

That is one thing I love about Rome so much.  So many people from the field end up here over the summer that we get to see people we might not see otherwise during the school year.  It’s a way to catch up and hang out in one of the best cities on earth.  

Day 28 through 32 – Rome

Ah, Rome. It had been splendid being here, though it has been hot as hell (got another sunburn. oops.). Our days here have been pretty leisurely – we walk around, see some sites, go to a museum or two. And eat. Lots of wonderful eating. Here’s the breakdown:

SITES – It’s hard to come to Rome and not see any of the major stuff, at least for me. I just feel a pull to walk by, at least! Just have to check that they’re still there. 😉

-The Coliseum – looks so good now that it’s been cleaned!
-Via dei Fori Imperiali – Chris taught me some new things about the Imperial Fora, which was awesome (AND I finally got to see the Temple of Mars Ultor. SO COOL.)
-The Vatican – I haven’t been inside the basilica in quite a while, but just seeing the square is enough for me. I love it. Unfortunately, however, this was one of the few places we really saw a significant upswing in security – you’re no longer allowed to just wander into the square, you have to go through security no matter what. Thanks, terrorism.
-The Trevi Fountain – I don’t care what everyone else says – every time I’m in Rome, I toss my coin in to ensure that I return. Call me superstitious, but it hasn’t failed me yet! 😉
-The Spanish Steps – I love the view from the top, but when we got there, it was closed for restoration. Bummer!
-Piazza Navona – Once Domition’s stadium, this is another of my favorite spots. I love the fountains, and there’s an awesome energy in the space, despite of, or because of, all the tourists.
-Piazza del Popolo – We actually saw a funeral procession entering one of the twin churches that guard the entrance to the Piazza. It was an interesting thing to see, since it’s so easy to forget that these churches are still actually in use.
-The Pantheon – hands down my favorite place on earth. I just love this building SO. MUCH. Every time I see it (we walked past a few times, haha) my heart just feels full and happy and amazed and excited and awed. I make sure I see it every time I’m in Rome.

MUSEUMS – can’t go to Rome without seeing a few museums! (at least, we can’t)

-The Capitoline Museums – I wrote about these in my last post. They’re great for a variety of reasons.
The Crypta Balbi – meh. I had never been to this museum before, so we decided to check it out. It was very confusing. I also feel like it would have been better had the archaeological remains been a bit more interesting (the museum is built over a portico), but still, everything was pretty confusing so it didn’t really manner anyway. haha
The Palazzo Altemps – a great museum for Roman sculpture. The signage is wonderful and they have some really kickass stuff there.
The Palazzo Massimo – I had never been here before and man, have I been missing out! This museum was my favorite of the trip – it is packed full with Roman sculpture, mosaics, and wall paintings. It’s fabulous, though the signage/arrangement of the wall paintings could be better.

FOOD – the most important part of traveling in Italy. Here’s what we liked especially.

Pizza al Taglio
-I suppli
Bonci
Pizza Alice

Gelato
Fata Morgana
San Crispino

Other
La Prosciutteria (enoteca)
Vin Allegro (enoteca)
Flavio al Velavevodetto
Trapizzino Testaccio
Osteria degli Amici

So, I’m heading home tomorrow. I will be sad to leave Chris (he heads to Pompeii), as always, but I am looking forward to sleeping my own bed and being able to spend the majority of the day sitting if I feel like it. And Minnie, of course. ☺ We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to in Rome, but there is always next time!

Day 27 and Day 28 – Roma at last

Yesterday and today were pretty relaxed – yesterday was mostly a travel day and then recover from travel, while today we had to do laundry before getting to anything fun. The flight from Alicante to Rome was surprisingly unpleasant for me. I do suffer pretty badly from motion sickness, and I actually hate flying, but this short flight was especially bad. I think it was a combination of the motion sickness with the fact that I was hungry. Oh well. Bottom line and most importantly – we made it to Rome!!

Side note: As I was getting off the train from the airport, my water bottle popped out of the side pocket on my backpack and went clattering down into the space between the train tracks. I freaked out – obviously I wasn’t going to reach down there while the train was there! But I really need my water bottle!! I was pretty agitated, so Chris suggested we wait for the train to leave then see if we could grab it then. Luckily, as the train moved out of the station, the bottle wasn’t crushed, and I was able to quickly dart down and grab it. It’s from Oberlin – I wasn’t about to give up on it!!

Anyway, water bottle fiascos aside…There is something about this city that just makes me feel complete. Even just walking through the airport set my spirit soaring. Not that the rest of this trip hasn’t been utterly amazing; it’s just that being in Rome makes my heart happy. Of course there are things about this city that are frustrating – it’s pretty dirty and the graffiti everywhere is pretty ugly – but Rome is so vibrant, so exciting, and so full of all the kinds of stories that I love (not to mention the food is better here than anywhere else in the world except maybe Thailand).

Our B&B is in Trastevere, which is really exciting for me because I haven’t ever really spent a lot of time exploring the neighborhood. The name comes from “trans Tevere/Tiberim,” which means “across the Tiber,” which is how the area was seen – across the Tiber from the main center of the city. Our B&B is absolutely adorable, and our host, Danilo, was very eager to show us all his favorite spots on a map. Once he had finally checked us in, we were able to get lunch (pizza al taglio from a place around the corner – amazing!) and then we just relaxed a bit before meeting up with friends to watch the Italy-Spain game (Italy played so well! I will be totally honest: I was expecting Spain to win, but I am so happy they didn’t! It’s really, really fun to watch a game with other people who are really, really enthusiastic about the outcome) and then Chris and I stayed out a bit later to watch the first half of the Iceland-England game (absolutely incredible. I might actually be rooting for Iceland all the way now!). All in all, a good first day!

Today we went over to our friend’s Leigh’s apartment to do laundry. Leigh is a friend of ours who lived in Cincinnati two years ago, but has spent the past academic year teaching at the Centro (the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies). She is an archaeologist and works with Chris at Pompeii, so just stayed on in Rome after the school year ended, since there wasn’t much point in her returning to the States since she’d have to come back to Italy in July anyway. This was very lucky for us because it meant that we were able to do some laundry for free! It was actually pretty nice – we just hung out and chatted for a bit while the washing machine did its thing.

Once we had hung everything up to dry, we went to lunch (more pizza al taglio!) and then headed over to the Capitoline Museums. This set of museums is one of my favorites in Rome – two palaces in Piazza Campidoglio (designed by Michelangelo), connected by an underground passage from which you can look out over the Forum. The collection of ancient sculpture and epigraphy is amazing, and the museums themselves have an incredible history – in 1471, Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of important ancient bronzes to the people of Rome and placed them on the Capitoline Hill, then in 1734, the palaces were opened to the public; the arrangement of the works inside has not changed since. Now, this does mean that you should spring the extra two euro or so for an audio guide if you don’t really know what you’re looking at, but I still think that’s pretty cool.

We wandered around the halls for a good while, lingering in front of our favorites. I’ll post my pictures soon. After the museum, we met up with Leigh for dinner at Trattoria der Pallaro, which was great. It’s a 25 euro flat price, and they just bring you food! All you can drink wine (and water!!!!), and three courses – antipasti (we had: mozzarella, prosciutto, lentils, and tomatoes with olive oil and basil), primi (we had: rigatoni with two types of sauce, a simple tomato sauce with parmesan, and then Carbonara sauce), secondi (we had: veal and pork in a wine sauce), then dolce (we had: a sort of creamy tart type thing). It was definitely worth 25 euros and everything tasted delicious. A few times the old nonna came out from the kitchen to see how everyone was enjoying their food, and she was really adorable.

So, we finished dinner at 10:30 and are now back in our lovely room ready to give in to our food comas. Buona notte!

Picture Post!

Here are some pictures I took while in Rome.

The Pantheon, my favorite spot

The Pantheon, my favorite spot

One of the buildings that make up the Borghese Villa (seen through a fence)

One of the buildings that make up the Borghese Villa (seen through a fence)

This is what happens when you try to build a subway stop in Rome.

This is what happens when you try to build a subway stop in Rome.

The Coliseum.  Or the Colosseum.  Whichever you prefer.

The Coliseum. Or the Colosseum. Whichever you prefer.

Celebrating his birthday with a refreshing gin and tonic.

Celebrating his birthday with a refreshing gin and tonic.

"our" place for a lovely birthday dinner

“our” place for a lovely birthday dinner

The Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla

Another shot of the baths

Another shot of the baths

The Vatican, my second favorite spot.

The Vatican, my second favorite spot.