(Long Overdue) Italy Observations

I wrote the original outline for this post over the Atlantic, but I didn’t find the time to actually complete it until now. Two months later. This is just a bunch of assorted things I found interesting, intriguing, or just plain weird about Italy.

  • Cats. Cats were very much fed and cared for by the community. The Lago Argentina in the middle of Rome was a cat sanctuary that contained a large amount of what we might call street cats. Here large felines, scarred by countless battles, lived amongst ancient temple ruins. They are cared for by a non-profit organization. Early Sunday morning in Perugia we looked over a railing to see a middle aged man feeding around 8 very grateful cats, and he seemed familiar with each one, yet they did not appear to be “his” pets. Even in a little town on the Amalfi Coast, where the only access was thousands of stairs and no cars existed, there was a single cat hanging out in the little area outside the church.
  • Dogs. Much like their feline companions, dogs were independent minded. Well fed dogs could be seen in the ruins and throughout Rome, but were rare as pets. The canines I did notice which seemed to be family pets roamed freely throughout the streets, only occasionally bothering to check on their owner. Leashes seem to be an unknown item!
  • National Military Police Force. In a concept foreign to many Americans, Italy is primarly policed by a single national arm of the military known as the Carabineri. They are a heavily armed force with an omnipresent deployment strategy. Every town, from Rome to remote mountain villages, have local Carabineri posts. This highly mechanized force uses equipment ranging from Land Rovers, transport trucks, to attack helicopters in enforcing Italian law. The soldiers (police?) themselves are armed with submachine guns, rifles, and full battle armor.
  • Emergency Vehicles. Sirens are much different. Instead of the whooooooOOOOOOOooooooo style of police, fire, and medical emergency services in the states, they have a tone that is more of a low noise with a two tone warble. It’s almost like a siren version of bagpipes. This noise is very effective at getting your attention, because it’s unnatural, but is not that particularly loud, whereas stateside vehicles  require much louder noise levels. Furthermore, sirens are more of recommendations for drivers, who usually attempt to get out of the way, and don’t pull over to the side of the road. Finally, you see “lights on” emergency responders much less often, for whatever reason.
  • Children and Playgrounds. Our Italian teacher said that Italy has a negative birthrate, and that Italians, while usually not having children in the city, do very much enjoy the presence of children. Not many children were present in Rome proper, but it’s still a sight to see there is a family with kids. They’re the most popular thing around. And playgrounds? Well, they don’t exist.
  • Parks. As one would expect for a city that predates the year zero, urban planning and green spaces are basically non-existent. Finding a tree or spot of grass at street level is a rare find in most parts of Rome. Most of the vegetation  is on the outskirts of town or on the rooftops.
  • Toilets. The bathroom situation is a lot better than many may imply. Most toilets in restrooms that you would find in hotels, restruants, and pay public stalls are of the typical sit-down type of which we are so familiar with. The only major difference is that the water levels are extremely low, only a few inches from the bottom of the bowl. Finding out the flushing mechanism, however, is a different story. They can be found at foot level, on the toilet itself (rare), or somewhere else in the restroom. And usually there are a few buttons that will send out different amounts of water. The infamous “holes” we encountered only once, at the train station in Perugia.
  • Police Party Puntos. In case you weren’t familiar with the model, a Fiat Punto is a very small and compact automobile. They are not particulary notable, except for the often sight of seeing a Carabineri driving one around with lights and sirens. I’ve seen five military police heading off to some disturbance in these tiny cars… it was quite similar to a clown car as far as fitting them all in was concerned. On another occasion I saw one Carabineri driving around what appeared to be his friends around town. Hmmmm…
  • Car Size. Speaking of cars, the size of cars was extremely small. You did not see trucks or SUVs, but instead lots of Smart Cars, Puntos, and other autos of similar dimensions. Once glance at the city streets made the reason for this abundantly clear–there was simply no room for larger cars to park, drive through, or even move.
  • Italian Urban Planning. Is not a phrase commonly used or thought, I suspect. As with most older cities, there is no coherent plan for streets, thoroughfares, or any sort of sense in getting people from one place to another with any particular efficiency. Winding cobblestone streets will suddenly open up and intersect with a 6 lane artery throughout town.
  • Pedestrians. In the narrow streets, cars and pedestrians will be sharing the same space, as sidewalks are not found on these roads. Pedestrians are expected to move out of the way when a car moves, and are expected to clear the road quite quickly, as the car is often careening down the narrow streets. When crossing a busy 6 lane road, pedestrians should not rely on traffic lights, as they usually don’t exist. I learned to be fearless and just start walking out into traffic, since this is the only way Italian drivers will stop for people crossing the street.
  • Water. Rome is the city of water, and it is a celebrated resource. Fountains are plentiful, and water is continually running from spigots and faucets. Once you have a water bottle, you won’t need to buy any more water, as the water flowing from the fountains in any city or town is drinkable and wonderfully refreshing.
  • Exact Change, Please. At the market where we usually shopped, there was this one clerk who always expected us to have exact change ready immediately upon ringing up the total. I actually think she expected us to add everything up in advance an just be ready to produce the change. Whenever we didn’t have exact change, which was often, she would often scowl and reluctantly accept our inexact amount.
  • Ruins, Ruins everywhere. I don’t think I was prepared for the amount of ruins that Rome contained. It was quite literally filled with them. An old structure thousands of years that would be a national treasure in most parts of the world were almost neglected and ignored in many situations. You would often just turn the corner into some old excavation site.
  • Tourist Season. We arrived during the end of tourist season, and got to watch as the city turned back into a place for Romans. The natives were returning from their holidays at the coast, and souvenir stands, vendors, and entire attractions such as the Trastevere party along the river just disappeared. As the tourists left, it was an interesting exercise seeing as the quality of food went up, they cared more about the presentation, and the souvenir carts thankfully bid their farewell until the next spring!
  • Fruit Quality. The fruit is generally not as fresh as in the United States, but the tomatoes and basil were the exception. Both were outstandingly fresh and good, which is not entirely a surprise.
  • McDonalds. Yes, they do exist.
  • Mexican Food. Does not exist.
  • Trains. The train network is one that I’m very jealous of. Their “milk trains” were well over 100mph, quite well furnished, and very reasonably priced. Trains left often, towns were well connected, and choices plentiful. Seats were not reserved for the slow trains, but for the other two classes of trains, Innercity and Eurostar, seats were reserved and the compartments comfortable. The extra bump in price is well worth it after a long weekend of exploring and you just want a place to settle down in some comfortable seats and cruise to Rome in style.
  • Campo Characters. Since our apartment was on the 1st floor overlooking the Campo, and because as a result of this we spent much of our free time around the Campo, we became quite acquainted with some of the local characters. Every morning we would awake to That Goddamned Prego Guy, who had a cart every morning right in front of our apartment selling lemonchello. His trademark was the very loud and annoying “PREGO FREE TASTE HELLOOOO” every 14 seconds, beginning at 6am. He became an object of hate amongst the Campo dewllers, and we secretly wished he would explode or something. One of our fellow residents said that he got the sense that the other vendors nearby were beginning to become hostile to his loud and annoying ways. Another Campo denizen was The Mime. The Mime would appear at night when the vendors left and the campo opened up for evening relaxation. He would appear with his little speaker on a cart, and would always lay out a piece of carpet before beginning this oddly soothing musical trance/yoga CD. The only problem is that we had no idea what he was miming, despite viewing his routine approximately 40 times. This annoyed us, but we found his music soothing and his very poor miming easily ignored. Late at night the Creepy Mouse Dude would creep out of the shadows. He would walk around with a fake mouse on a stick and a whistle in his mouth, and generally act creepy towards females a third of his age. One day we heard this wonderful rhythmic drumming and flutes playing, and the Fun Cultists showed up! They wore the cult clothing so often stereotyped, passed out little pieces of paper, and generally looked like they were having way too much fun.

That’s about it for my thoughts and observations that I didn’t really mention in my previous posts. If you have anything you might be curious about, feel free ask in the comment section.

In other news, I uploaded my edited pictures from the trip, you can view them at the link below.

Italy Photo Album

Rome Update #8 (Final)

Final week! Unfortunately this post will not be very exciting as most of what happened was school-related.

Monday, September 21st, 2009

So begins the last day of classes. In the morning we visited the “Supreme Court” for Italy. Supreme court is in quotes because we actually visited the last appellate court, which does *not* consider constitutional matters, only facts of law. We went on a tour of the building as well as visited a courtroom, the legal library, and listened to a brief overview of the system by a few different people.  In the afternoon we had our usual 2 hour session with Professor Lovell, then my group met for about an hour to work on our presentation.

Later that night Rachel and I decided to try and find some burritos, but after wandering around all throught the city and crossing the river, we decided to just give up and have some pizza instead. We sat on one of the bridges overlooking the Tiber and munched on dinner.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Class at 9:00am and then our group met at 1:00pm to finalize our presentation. After working for three pointless hours 4:00pm rolled around and we went down to the conference room to listen to two other groups before giving ours. I talked about the Guarante and think it went pretty well overall. Later that night we finshed off her Vodka (not a good idea) and spent most of the time annoying everyone else around.

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Final day of class! The afternoon was mainly spent cleaning our apartment and starting to pack up, and at 6:00 the final two presentation groups presented before we had a reception in Prof. McCann’s apartment. It was our last get together a a group, and the food as well as the company was excellent, as always. Later we went out on the Campo!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

For the last day of the program, Rachel and I went to see the inside of the Coliseum and Roman Forum. I’m not sure how I felt about both of these, as they were truthfully a little underwhelming. Afterwards, we went shopping for various things, and some of my finds were an awesome A.S. Roma jersey (lime green) and a scarf.  I finished packing and we polished away the last of the food left before we watched the ending of The Dark Knight and an episode of Flight of the Conchords before going to sleep fairly late.

Friday, September 25th, 2009

I woke up at 4:30am and said sadly said goodbye to Rachel before meeting Corddaryl and Dane outside our apartment at 5:15 to go to the airport. We took the 64 bus to Stazione Termini and then the Leonardo Express to FCO. Once there, we had to down town a poorly marked pathway to the “Delta” check in, which was really a bus which took us to what seemed to be a warehouse. We went through some initial security check before actually going to another room with the check-in counter. After the counter we then went through security (a very pleasant experience… didn’t have to take off our shoes!), before finding another bus which took us back… to the main terminal.

My flight left at 10:40, and enjoyed the window seat, as usual, to Atlanta. I watched the Deadliest Catch, the new Star Trek movie, and Family Guy on the flight, and they decided to serve us “Pizza.”  Since our flight arrived half an hour early, we got to sit around in the plane until a terminal opened up for us to dock at. Passport control and customs were fun as usual, and after breezing through these, I promptly went to eat some American food. There was only one Mexican place in the airport, and it was way out of the beaten path. So I settled for a local cheeseburger and seasoned fries before boarding the final flight home. Got back at 9:00pm, and basically slept until 9:00am on Saturday.

And that’s a wrap.

Rome Update #7

Monday, September 14th, 2009

This was the first class with Professor Lovell, who is a pretty neat guy that has a snarky sense of humor, a love of all things Supreme Court, and vaguely looks like me. After class was our first interview for the group project. After class we talked with an Italian blogger and journalist who was also involved in the Open Source Movement. A few hours later we were finished and went off our separate ways. This day also marked the arrival of rain showers in Rome. When I heard this thunderstorm outside while I was studying in the library, there was little choice but to run back to my apartment, throw on a coat, and wander around getting soaked.

Later that night a group of us went down to see the Colosseum again at night, but this time the place was covered in rain and moisture! When we got back I finished up my response paper for class on Wednesday—we were discussing internet and employment law.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

After a typical class with Professor McCann, we had our second interview—this time with a corporate attorney for debt collectors regarding the protection of data privacy and other related matters. His viewpoint was very procedural—as one would expect a civil lawyer’s view to be—but we still got a lot out of his viewpoint. It was raining basically all afternoon, so we stayed indoors and had a calm night.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

This was by far the busiest day for me in the program. I woke up early to prepare for class that day, and then after class had to run to the A. S. Roma ticket office next to the Pantheon to get tickets for the Football (Soccer) game on Sunday. Then I had to run back to lead my group to our third interview at the Guarante, which is an Italian governmental organization set up to protect the use of private data. The interview was a mix between very grand ideas from the upper management, the reality from the case workers, and dotted with optimism for the future from everyone. As an added bonus we got free buttons, stickers, and baseball hats from the place.

After this long tour/interview, we briefly hit up a gelato place before rushing back to another lecture at 5:00pm about Italy and the death penalty. Finally after this two hour lecture and discussion, Rachel and I fled up to the student lounge to quickly write our response papers for the next class. Finally after all of this, we went to grab a quick dinner before watching some of The Dark Knight before sleeping a very well-earned rest.

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

This was the second class in two days where I had a response paper due, and things went well (I think). We were trying to plan out what to do with our last weekend in Italy, and this was the “free” weekend where nothing else was planned with the program. Quickly reading the tour book in class, we had our respective group meetings after class before going to the library to try and figure out where to go. After quite some time, Rachel and I decided to take a regional train to Napoli (Naples), stay in a hotel right next to the train station, and then wake up early the next morning to go and stay at the Amalfi Coast.

Quickly packing and rushing to the train station after missing the first bus, we managed to get to the trian with 5 minutes to spare. The only problem is that with a regional train (the “slowest”, cheapest class), is that you cannot reserve seats, and they don’t limit the number of people who can board. So we ended up standing in the causeway between cars with about 10 other people, sweating away. Finally after about an hour some seats opened up and could sit down the rest of the way. About 30 minutes before arriving in Naples, the gentleman across from us asked where we were from. It turns out he is a Dutch National who lived in New York (and thus had a very odd accent, kind of like a New York British thing) and was going to visit his daughter who lived on Capri.

Getting off the train at around 7:30pm, we saw that Naples lived up to its reputation. It was busy, dirty, and drivers generally ignored crosswalks and traffic signals. Luckily the hotel wasn’t too hard to find, and we dropped off our stuff before deciding to go to arguably the best pizza place in the world: Pizzeria da Michele.

Waiting outside for about an hour to get a table, we were put in a table with 8 people. Next to us was an older couple who we spoke with in Italian and found out that they were Napoli locals. The other side was a well dressed couple of 35 or so. The place was unassuming, packed, and the ovens were right next to the tables. There were two choices of pizza: marinara or margherita, and they were four dollars each. Grabbing one of each types and some beer, we quickly got the pizza.

The thing is, that we didn’t realize eating pizza was actually a race. The older couple to the next of us basically attacked their pies and finished them before we had a slice each. Everyone around us was just scarfing this pizza. And we could see why, the food was amazing. The dough was very thin, the sauce fresh and flavorful, the crust slightly burned, and cheese lightly sprinkled on top. Coming to only (!) 11 euro combined, we exited this eatery with delighted taste buds and full stomachs.

Managing to navigate the rough streets of Naples once again, we went to bed pretty early so we could wake up early and catch the 8am bus to Agerola so we could arrive quite early at the coast.

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Waking up at 6:15 and out of the hotel at 7:00, we went down to the port where the SITA bus stop was marked on the schedule we had and on her tourbook. The only problem is, we couldn’t find it. Wandering all around the ferry dock and port, we eventually took a long walk to another transport hub where we asked a group of Napoliese where the bus station was. They didn’t know, and didn’t speak English, and we couldn’t convey what we were trying to find that well with my Italian skills.

They were talking loudly, as people of Naples tend to do, and started yelling at a port police officer if he spoke English. He waved us over, and we had a very excitable conversation (for you see, they can never have a conversation at normal volume, it must be loud and passionate) before he pointed us to where the station was—the place we were just at. We began the long walk back, and were starting to get worried about time. Finding the “Red” building he mentioned, we once again asked someone where the SITA station was. He pointed us down the road even further, with 10 minutes to go. We saw the small SITA sign and just started running flat out with our backpacks and weight flying behind us. Rushing into the ticket station at 7:57, we grabbed two tickets and got on the bus with a minute to spare.

This bus was quite the trip. Two hours of going through windy one and a half lane roads on the side of cliffs, we were treated with the beepBEEPbeep of the bus horn every time he went around a blind corner at blinding (bad pun, sorry) speed. Someone managing to survive, we arrived in the little town of Agerola at 10:00, and found our hotel at 10:15. Perched on a cliff about 1km above sea level, the view was incredible, and the family who ran it gave us orange juice on their porch while we surveyed the scene.

Dropping off our stuff in the room, we took a bus down to Amalfi after an hour-long nap. This bus was was much like the other one, but instead of going somewhere at the same elevation, this bus basically went down switchbacks for an hour before depositing us at Amalfi. We wandered around through this town and the one immediately next to it along the coast, and we got a tuna sandwich (Italian style) before settling down at the beach for some swimming and soaking up some sun.

Satisfying our sun absorption quotas, we went to the Cathedral and main Piazza at Amalfi and did some shopping and wandering around in the small side streets and stairways that characterized this coast. We also saw a Carabinieri (military police and main police force of Italy) helicopter drop off some hotshot 30-something officer, who wandered around town being awesome.

Taking the last bus back to Agerola, we barely got a place to sit on the bus. Then we watched some Flight of the Conchords before going to bed early.

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Waking up at 3am to the sound of what was very much like I imagined what 2000 frog-lungfish hybrid creatures would make, we slept in until 9(!) before heading down to the reception at the hotel to see if we could stay another night. After getting a positive answer, we took the bus to Amalfi and then took another short bus to a nearby town to begin the 6 hour hike called “Pathway of the Gods.” We started at the opposite end that most people recommend because we wanted to end up in Postiano at the end of the trip. Finding a (poor) map of the area and then going straight up for about an hour in rough-hewn stone steps, it was very much a hot and sweaty experience. We quickly drained 2 liters of water, and were starting to worry until we found a godsend: a cold water faucet. Occasionally by the trail were houses and small terraced farms built into the side of the hills, and this was one of theirs. Getting our heads wet and quickly hydrating with massive amounts of water, we tried to find out where we were. After quite a while of contemplating about it, Rachel had the idea of using my compass, the map, and the monastery that we could see to try and see what parallel we were on.

Luckily this worked, and after another half an hour of just walking basically straight up, we hit the main trail and started walking along an amazing landscape of water, farms, and abandoned stone houses. Often it reminded me of a scene from Lord of the Rings. It was simply amazing, and there were little lizards everywhere. We met about 6 other people during the entire time at the trail, and had lunch sitting outside an abandoned stone farmhouse overlooking the towns to the east and west of us while soaking in the sea meeting the sky directly ahead.

After another hour or two, we hit Nocelle—which was a small town that was perched over a cliff and was accessed by a staircase down to Postiano boasting 1,700 individual stairs. Making this long descent, we hit the “jewel of the coast.” Postiano was even cooler than Amalfi, and was even more of a vertical city marked by a huge cliff splitting the town into two. After some additional shopping and soaking in the city, we went to dinner in a place that was (surprise) perched over a cliff. I had Gnocchi with Tomato sauce and Mozzarella (a local dish), while Rachel had “Frutti di Mare Mista” (Mixed Seafood). The gnocchi was exceptional, and the seafood was pretty interesting. I caught Rachel staring at her food with a weird face, and she said it was like she was getting an allergic reaction. She’s allergic to peanuts, and her mouth was suddenly dry like a reaction was occurring, even though it didn’t taste like peanuts.

I tasted the fish to see if I could taste any peanuts, and the same thing happened to me! We figure it was some weird spice that caused this effect. Luckily nobody was going to the hospital, and we then semi-fled to the last bus to Amalfi. On the way there, the beautiful day started to turn very rainy, in a hurry. It went from sunny to absolutely pouring in 5 minutes, with the sky covered in cloud-cloud lightning. We could actually see a fast moving thunderhead surging vertically into the sky. Unfortunately, the bus “shelter” could actually fit about two people, and we didn’t bring any rain coats or jackets. Huddling under a tree, we waited while soaking wet for the bus to finally arrive. Hopping on, we thought things were looking up.

Then the retards from the American Military behind us opened their mouths. They were every stereotype we hoped to avoid while in Italy: they were loud, obnoxious, drunk, Southern, didn’t speak or try to speak in Italian, and talked about very inappropriate topics on the bus. Loudly. It seemed that their idea of Italy was that since everyone was being quiet on the bus, they should talk as loudly as possible about whatever stupid topic they could think of. We slunk into our seats, embarrassed, and decided that if anyone asked, we were from Victoria, British Columbia.

The “Americans” finally stumbled off the bus and we ended up in Amalfi in the midst of what I didn’t think was possible: a harder rain than the one we left 30 minutes ago. Hiding in a bus shelter, we were trying to figure out what bus was going to our town. The issue is that SITA (the transit authority), randomly had buses arrive, and usually didn’t bother changing their destination signs. There were no route numbers, and a bus arriving from one place is probably going to start a route to a completely other town. We had to wander around looking at small hand written signs in the windows of very modern buses to finally find our bus. And by wander around I meant darting out from the tent we were hiding under and getting soaked in the process.

Then the “Americans” got on again. It turns out that they didn’t know where the transit hub was and just got off at some bar to drink more before wandering back onto our bus. This time it was different: they brought open beers with them this time! Conversing about what to do with their now passed-out friend and drinking more, they said only one word in Italian: where they were going. Finally the bus driver just opened the doors and said “Bomoro” (their stop), and they shuffled off the bus. The next morning I saw where we stopped, and it was about a km from their actual stop. Turns out Italians don’t take crap from nobody.

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Since we had an extra day, we decided to go to Pompeii. The only issue was that in order to get there, we had to wake up at 5:15am to catch the 6:00 bus from Agerola to Amalfi. This ride was basically empty, and we enjoyed the sunrise over Amalfi for 5 minutes before getting on the 90 minute busride to Salerno before grabbing some coffee at a local bar and then getting bus tickets for the two hour ride to Pompeii.

Winding through small towns, we finally arrived at 11:00am to Pompeii and entered the oft-cited ruins. They did not disappoint. With Vesuvius in the background, we began to explore this ruined city. The site was larger than I had imagined, and the ruins were well restored and excavated. We went around for a few hours before getting rather bored with the ruins and figured out how to get back to Naples.

Taking a small local train to Naples, we booked two seats on the faster Intercity Train to Roma. After an air-conditioned two hour ride in comfort, we made it in Rome at 5:30pm. Grabbing some food to eat and resting for a few minutes (remember that we were up since 5am) we left at 7:15 for the A.S. Roma game. Taking a very crowded and typical Roman bus, we arrived at the stadium at around 8:20 or so. The police were out in force, and they didn’t check our bags or do any screening of any sort. This will be important in a little bit.

Finding out that our seats were taken by some other very cranky Italians, we grabbed some empty seats nearby and were in the midst of a Roman football match. After the first Roma goal, there was a large BANG in the empty section next to us. Then another BANG BANG BANG. Nobody seemed that concerned that someone was throwing very loud fireworks into this section, and then all hell broke loose.

This empty section suddenly flooded with fans, scrambling like monkeys over the barriers and filling the seats almost instantaneously. They all brought scarves, banners, and lots and lots of flares and fireworks. Immediately beginning to sing loudly, these fans used the explosives to “distract” the guards while they bum-rushed the gate and thus got free admission into the game.

The guards (and there were a lot) stayed out of the section as the party went on with flares aplenty. From what a guy in our program says, Europeans will occasionally do this for matches they want to go to. The security people don’t care too much because they are a loud fan section, and the explosives, while being very loud, were not very “dangerous.” The firefighters (yes, there were 4 of them at each corner of the pitch), were unconcerned with all of this. After such a unique experience and A. S. Roma winning 3-1, we all waited to see what the loud and explosive-ridden fan section next to ours was going to do at the end of the game.

They just left. My theory is that if they were rowdy, security would try harder to keep them out and it would be bad news bears for everyone. We rushed out to catch a bus back, and when it arrived, we saw one of our professors from the program, who told us to “rush the bus.” Cramming the bus to the max, the doors were open for perhaps 20 seconds before we were on our way. Rachel and I were in the way back of the bus while two 16 year olds were sitting above us on the engine compartment.

Then the camp bus simulation began. The entire bus broke out in Roma victory songs and chants, and it was like this for the entire ride back to our stop.

Getting back, I checked my long-ignored e-mail before getting to bed. The best we could figure is that we took 8 different public transit trips in 20 hours.

Photos

Monday, September 14th, 2009

This was the first class with Professor Lovell, who is a pretty neat guy that has a snarky sense of humor, a love of all things Supreme Court, and vaguely looks like me. After class was our first interview for the group project. After class we talked with an Italian blogger and journalist who was also involved in the Open Source Movement. A few hours later we were finished and went off our separate ways. This day also marked the arrival of rain showers in Rome. When I heard this thunderstorm outside while I was studying in the library, there was little choice but to run back to my apartment, throw on a coat, and wander around getting soaked.

Later that night a group of us went down to see the Colosseum again at night, but this time the place was covered in rain and moisture! When we got back I finished up my response paper for class on Wednesday—we were discussing internet and employment law.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

After a typical class with Professor McCann, we had our second interview—this time with a corporate attorney for debt collectors regarding the protection of data privacy and other related matters. His viewpoint was very procedural—as one would expect a civil lawyer’s view to be—but we still got a lot out of his viewpoint. It was raining basically all afternoon, so we stayed indoors and had a calm night.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

This was by far the busiest day for me in the program. I woke up early to prepare for class that day, and then after class had to run to the A. S. Roma ticket office next to the Pantheon to get tickets for the Football (Soccer) game on Sunday. Then I had to run back to lead my group to our third interview at the Guarante, which is an Italian governmental organization set up to protect the use of private data. The interview was a mix between very grand ideas from the upper management, the reality from the case workers, and dotted with optimism for the future from everyone. As an added bonus we got free buttons, stickers, and baseball hats from the place.

After this long tour/interview, we briefly hit up a gelato place before rushing back to another lecture at 5:00pm about Italy and the death penalty. Finally after this two hour lecture and discussion, Rachel and I fled up to the student lounge to quickly write our response papers for the next class. Finally after all of this, we went to grab a quick dinner before watching some of The Dark Knight before sleeping a very well-earned rest.

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

This was the second class in two days where I had a response paper due, and things went well (I think). We were trying to plan out what to do with our last weekend in Italy, and this was the “free” weekend where nothing else was planned with the program. Quickly reading Rachel’s tour book in class, we had our respective group meetings after class before going to the library to try and figure out where to go. After quite some time, we decided to take a regional train to Napoli (Naples), stay in a hotel right next to the trian station, and then wake up early the next morning to go and stay at the Amalfi Coast.

Quickly packing and rushing to the train station after missing the first bus, we managed to get to the trian with 5 minutes to spare. The only problem is that with a regional train (the “slowest”, cheapest class), is that you cannot reserve seats, and they don’t limit the number of people who can board. So we ended up standing in the causeway between cars with about 10 other people, sweating away. Finally after about an hour some seats opened up and could sit down the rest of the way. About 30 minutes before arriving in Naples, the gentleman across from us asked where we were from. It turns out he is a Dutch National who lived in New York (and thus had a very odd accent, kind of like a New York British thing) and was going to visit his daughter who lived on Capri.

Getting off the train at around 7:30pm, we saw that Naples lived up to its reputation. It was busy, dirty, and drivers generally ignored crosswalks and traffic signals. Luckily the hotel wasn’t too hard to find, and we dropped off our stuff before deciding to go to arguably the best pizza place in the world: Pizzeria da Michele.

Waiting outside for about an hour to get a table, we were put in a table with 8 people. Next to us was an older couple who we spoke with in Italian and found out that they were Napoli locals. The other side was a well dressed couple of 35 or so. The place was unassuming, packed, and the ovens were right next to the tables. There were two choices of pizza: marinara or margherita, and they were four dollars each. Grabbing one of each types and some beer, we quickly got the pizza.

The thing is, that we didn’t realize eating pizza was actually a race. The older couple to the next of us basically attacked their pies and finished them before we had a slice each. Everyone around us was just scarfing this pizza. And we could see why, the food was amazing. The dough was very thin, the sauce fresh and flavorful, the crust slightly burned, and cheese lightly sprinkled on top. Coming to only (!) 11 euro combined, we exited this eatery with delighted taste buds and full stomachs.

Managing to navigate the rough streets of Naples once again, we went to bed pretty early so we could wake up early and catch the 8am bus to Agerola so we could arrive quite early at the coast.

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Waking up at 6:15 and out of the hotel at 7:00, we went down to the port where the SITA bus stop was marked on the schedule we had and on her tourbook. The only problem is, we couldn’t find it. Wandering all around the ferry dock and port, we eventually took a long walk to another transport hub where we asked a group of Napoliese where the bus station was. They didn’t know, and didn’t speak English, and we couldn’t convey what we were trying to find that well with my Italian skills.

They were talking loudly, as people of Naples tend to do, and started yelling at a port police officer if he spoke English. He waved us over, and we had a very excitable conversation (for you see, they can never have a conversation at normal volume, it must be loud and passionate) before he pointed us to where the station was—the place we were just at. We began the long walk back, and were starting to get worried about time. Finding the “Red” building he mentioned, we once again asked someone where the SITA station was. He pointed us down the road even further, with 10 minutes to go. We saw the small SITA sign and just started running flat out with our backpacks and weight flying behind us. Rushing into the ticket station at 7:57, we grabbed two tickets and got on the bus with a minute to spare.

This bus was quite the trip. Two hours of going through windy one and a half lane roads on the side of cliffs, we were treated with the beepBEEPbeep of the bus horn every time he went around a blind corner at blinding (bad pun, sorry) speed. Someone managing to survive, we arrived in the little town of Agerola at 10:00, and found our hotel at 10:15. Perched on a cliff about 1km above sea level, the view was incredible, and the family who ran it gave us orange juice on their porch while we surveyed the scene.

Dropping off our stuff in the room, we took a bus down to Amalfi after an hour-long nap. This bus was was much like the other one, but instead of going somewhere at the same elevation, this bus basically went down switchbacks for an hour before depositing us at Amalfi. We wandered around through this town and the one immediately next to it along the coast, and we got a tuna sandwich (Italian style) before settling down at the beach for some swimming and soaking up some sun.

Satisfying our sun absorption quotas, we went to the Cathedral and main Piazza at Amalfi and did some shopping and wandering around in the small side streets and stairways that characterized this coast. We also saw a Carabinieri (military police and main police force of Italy) helicopter drop off some hotshot 30-something officer, who wandered around town being awesome.

Taking the last bus back to Agerola, we barely got a place to sit on the bus. Then we watched some Flight of the Conchords before going to bed early.

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Waking up at 3am to the sound of what was very much like I imagined what 2000 frog-lungfish hybrid creatures would make, we slept in until 9(!) before heading down to the reception at the hotel to see if we could stay another night. After getting a positive answer, we took the bus to Amalfi and then took another short bus to a nearby town to begin the 6 hour hike called “Pathway of the Gods.” We started at the opposite end that most people recommend because we wanted to end up in Postiano at the end of the trip. Finding a (poor) map of the area and then going straight up for about an hour in rough-hewn stone steps, it was very much a hot and sweaty experience. We quickly drained 2 liters of water, and were starting to worry until we found a godsend: a cold water faucet. Occasionally by the trail were houses and small terraced farms built into the side of the hills, and this was one of theirs. Getting our heads wet and quickly hydrating with massive amounts of water, we tried to find out where we were. After quite a while of contemplating about it, Rachel had the idea of using my compass, the map, and the monastery that we could see to try and see what parallel we were on.

Luckily this worked, and after another half an hour of just walking basically straight up, we hit the main trail and started walking along an amazing landscape of water, farms, and abandoned stone houses. Often it reminded me of a scene from Lord of the Rings. It was simply amazing, and there were little lizards everywhere. We met about 6 other people during the entire time at the trail, and had lunch sitting outside an abandoned stone farmhouse overlooking the towns to the east and west of us while soaking in the sea meeting the sky directly ahead.

After another hour or two, we hit Nocelle—which was a small town that was perched over a cliff and was accessed by a staircase down to Postiano boasting 1,700 individual stairs. Making this long descent, we hit the “jewel of the coast.” Postiano was even cooler than Amalfi, and was even more of a vertical city marked by a huge cliff splitting the town into two. After some additional shopping and soaking in the city, we went to dinner in a place that was (surprise) perched over a cliff. I had Gnocchi with Tomato sauce and Mozzarella (a local dish), while Rachel had “Frutti di Mare Mista” (Mixed Seafood). The gnocchi was exceptional, and the seafood was pretty interesting. I caught Rachel staring at her food with a weird face, and she said it was like she was getting an allergic reaction. She’s allergic to peanuts, and her mouth was suddenly dry like a reaction was occurring, even though it didn’t taste like peanuts.

I tasted the fish to see if I could taste any peanuts, and the same thing happened to me! We figure it was some weird spice that caused this effect. Luckily nobody was going to the hospital, and we then semi-fled to the last bus to Amalfi. On the way there, the beautiful day started to turn very rainy, in a hurry. It went from sunny to absolutely pouring in 5 minutes, with the sky covered in cloud-cloud lightning. We could actually see a fast moving thunderhead surging vertically into the sky. Unfortunately, the bus “shelter” could actually fit about two people, and we didn’t bring any rain coats or jackets. Huddling under a tree, we waited while soaking wet for the bus to finally arrive. Hopping on, we thought things were looking up.

Then the retards from the American Military behind us opened their mouths. They were every stereotype we hoped to avoid while in Italy: they were loud, obnoxious, drunk, Southern, didn’t speak or try to speak in Italian, and talked about very inappropriate topics on the bus. Loudly. It seemed that their idea of Italy was that since everyone was being quiet on the bus, they should talk as loudly as possible about whatever stupid topic they could think of. We slunk into our seats, embarrassed, and decided that if anyone asked, we were from Victoria, British Columbia.

The “Americans” finally stumbled off the bus and we ended up in Amalfi in the midst of what I didn’t think was possible: a harder rain than the one we left 30 minutes ago. Hiding in a bus shelter, we were trying to figure out what bus was going to our town. The issue is that SITA (the transit authority), randomly had buses arrive, and usually didn’t bother changing their destination signs. There were no route numbers, and a bus arriving from one place is probably going to start a route to a completely other town. We had to wander around looking at small hand written signs in the windows of very modern buses to finally find our bus. And by wander around I meant darting out from the tent we were hiding under and getting soaked in the process.

Then the “Americans” got on again. It turns out that they didn’t know where the transit hub was and just got off at some bar to drink more before wandering back onto our bus. This time it was different: they brought open beers with them this time! Conversing about what to do with their now passed-out friend and drinking more, they said only one word in Italian: where they were going. Finally the bus driver just opened the doors and said “Bomoro” (their stop), and they shuffled off the bus. The next morning I saw where we stopped, and it was about a km from their actual stop. Turns out Italians don’t take crap from nobody.

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Since we had an extra day, we decided to go to Pompeii. The only issue was that in order to get there, we had to wake up at 5:15am to catch the 6:00 bus from Agerola to Amalfi. This ride was basically empty, and we enjoyed the sunrise over Amalfi for 5 minutes before getting on the 90 minute busride to Salerno before grabbing some coffee at a local bar and then getting bus tickets for the two hour ride to Pompeii.

Winding through small towns, we finally arrived at 11:00am to Pompeii and entered the oft-cited ruins. They did not disappoint. With Vesuvius in the background, we began to explore this ruined city. The site was larger than I had imagined, and the ruins were well restored and excavated. We went around for a few hours before getting rather bored with the ruins and figured out how to get back to Naples.

Taking a small local train to Naples, we booked two seats on the faster Intercity Train to Roma. After an air-conditioned two hour ride in comfort, we made it in Rome at 5:30pm. I’m pretty sure we got the last two seats on the Train, as we were in the way back in the middle seats. Grabbing some food to eat and resting for a few minutes (remember that we were up since 5am) we left at 7:15 for the A.S. Roma game. Taking a very crowded and typical Roman bus, we arrived at the stadium at around 8:20 or so. The police were out in force, and they didn’t check our bags or do any screening of any sort. This will be important in a little bit.

Finding out that our seats were taken by some other very cranky Italians, we grabbed some empty seats nearby and were in the midst of a Roman football match. After the first Roma goal, there was a large BANG in the empty section next to us. Then another BANG BANG BANG. Nobody seemed that concerned that someone was throwing very loud fireworks into this section, and then all hell broke loose.

This empty section suddenly flooded with fans, scrambling like monkeys over the barriers and filling the seats almost instantaneously. They all brought scarves, banners, and lots and lots of flares and fireworks. Immediately beginning to sing loudly, these fans used the explosives to “distract” the guards while they bum-rushed the gate and thus got free admission into the game.

The guards (and there were a lot) stayed out of the section as the party went on with flares aplenty. From what a guy in our program says, Europeans will occasionally do this for matches they want to go to. The security people don’t care too much because they are a loud fan section, and the explosives, while being very loud, were not very “dangerous.” The firefighters (yes, there were 4 of them at each corner of the pitch), were unconcerned with all of this. After such a unique experience and A. S. Roma winning 3-1, we all waited to see what the loud and explosive-ridden fan section next to ours was going to do at the end of the game.

They just left. My theory is that if they were rowdy, security would try harder to keep them out and it would be bad news bears for everyone. We rushed out to catch a bus back, and when it arrived, we saw one of our professors from the program, who told us to “rush the bus.” Cramming the bus to the max, the doors were open for perhaps 20 seconds before we were on our way. Rachel and I were in the way back of the bus while two 16 year olds were sitting above us on the engine compartment.

Then the camp bus simulation began. The entire bus broke out in Roma victory songs and chants, and it was like this for the entire ride back to our stop.

Getting back, I checked my long-ignored e-mail before getting to bed.

Photos:

Regarding photos, I don’t have time to process all of them right now. Any that haven’t been posted yet (and it’s been a while), I will post when I get to my apartment in Seattle where I have a proper computer set up to deal with them. :)

Rome Update #6

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The day before our Florence trip, and possible trip to Venice, so after class Rachel and I went to the library to try and figure out where we were going to stay. A big group of students in our group were going to stay in a duplex that was registered to one person, which I was trying to avoid. The issue (besides having 10 people crammed into two rooms) is that you need to register where you’re staying with the hotel. If unregistered people are in the room and the police come by (and they do this), these people are generally sent to jail for the night, something which I was trying to avoid.

After a long discussion, we decided not to plan for Venice, and to instead plan our Saturday and Sunday while already in Florence. With this in mind, Rain, Rachel and I went to the Capitoline Museums.

These museums were awesome. The Treaty of Rome was signed in one of the rooms, the original she-wolf of Rome was in another, and everywhere was ancient art and sculptures. The artwork was simply outstanding!

Getting back, I watched the fallout of the Venice trip amongst our group. There was much drama involved, as many people had already paid for the room or train tickets. Luckily we were smart and didn’t do any of this, so just kind of hid and watched the whole thing unfold. Much later there was a huge party at our apartment, where I sat around and listened to music while watching everyone else drink way too much.

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Remember that party? Unfortunately what they didn’t really consider is that we had to meet in front of the Rome Center at 8am. I woke up nice and early and packed for about one and a half nights, as that was really all I was willing to carry. We got on the bus and took the super fast Eurostar express to Florence. 250km and 90 minutes later, we arrived in the ancient town founded by Ceasar.

We took a bus to the heights surrounding town, as that was where the European University Institute (EUI) is located. This post-graduate institution of higher learning is founded by EU member states and supports research and other educational goals to advance EU policy. We had a pretty standard cafeteria lunch before touring the grounds of the university. Then we had a lecture from one of the Professors there about 9/11 (since it was the anniversary, after all) and the implications it has for human rights.

After a reception at the EUI afterwards, we took the bus back to Florence Proper and were on our own for the rest of the weekend. I took a nap before wandering around the river and then going into the interior of the place with Rain before getting back to our hotel at midnight or so.

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Waking up at 8:00 for breakfast at the hotel, Rachel and I went to see “David,” which was not that great at first glance. Yet once I processed the artwork, I realized it was fairly impressive after all. Then we went to the Duomo (Florence Cathedral) and toured the inside before climbing up the very long way to the top of the dome to enjoy an amazing view of the Florentine skyline. We then met Rain and went to the Florence market where I got some scarves and ties before wandering off to eat lunch. Going back to the Hotel, Rachel and I had to plan our next move. In one hour of internet time at the hotel, we planned our destination, found a train schedule, booked a hotel, and in the closing minute scrawled out some random street names to where the hotel was located. We did not get a map.

We want to Palazzo Vecchio and stayed a while in the center of the renaissance before going to Ponte Vecchio (the bridge with all of the jewelry vendors on either side of the street crossing the road).

Slowly ambling back to the train station, we got on the Regional Train to Perugia departing at 18:13. Arriving in the dark at 20:18, I managed to buy 4 bus tickets from the rather unhelpful guy at the booth. When I asked if there was a map, he said that they didn’t have any, despite being an “Information Booth,” and said there were no maps around since every place was closed. He did point us to take a bus to the city center though.

A helpful guy waiting for the bus pointed us to the “right” autobus to get to the City Center. We dutifully got on, and as the bus went on, it seemed we weren’t really going anywhere. I was keeping an eye out for any signs to the City Center, and after what seemed to last forever, we showed up at what seemed to be the top of the hill and a semi-legit looking square. We got off, and saw a long street which was wide and full of people. Cautiously going down this via, we found the center square, but had no idea where to go from there. I decided to circle the square clockwise in hopes that we would find a street or Piazza which was one of the landmarks we had written down. After what seemed like forever, we found a small map which had one of the landmarks. Almost running down to this piazza, we finally found an amazing sign which pointed to our hotel.

I can’t really say how perfect it all worked out for navigation. We made some good guesses and managed to find the right place. Later we were talking about how calm we seemed on the bus, while individually we were both panicking in our heads about where we were going, if the stranger was actually helpful, where to get off, and where to go from there. The mistake we made was not getting a map beforehand from somewhere. I just assumed there would be a map at the Bus Ticket / Information booths which were everywhere. Lesson learned!

It was 9pm when we got in to the hotel, and luckily the lady who co-owned it spoke English quite well, as the Italian-portion of my brain was completely fried. She gave us a map, and some places to eat.

After throwing our stuff in our room, we went to a small street and got some wonderful Margarita Pizza before finding an underground lair restaurant and got some bread with mixed toppings, a baked cheese dish with truffles (the mushroom), Tiramisu, and some much-needed wine.

On the way back to our hotel, we saw the most amazing thing ever: it seemed the entire town was walking towards the center square at midnight. Some were young, some were old, some were wearing business suits, and even the town bishop showed up.

The Palazzo was completely packed, and everyone was speaking Italian. We have no idea why the party was happening, but it was a great experience and seemed to be fairly authentic.

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

After a much needed full night of sleep, we woke up at 8:30 and had a light breakfast at the hotel before going off to explore Perugia. It was raining! The streets were empty, and it was creepy as we walked through the town and found some awesome streets to walk down. Finding the old walls and lots of steps, we went around aimlessly before finding the main square again. We went to a museum featuring artwork from 12th century into present day, and was quite interesting to view the progression of artistic techniques. Then we went to an old Entruscian Well and a few more museums featuring various pieces of the Entruscian culture, including one which had a huge underground excavation site which was quite awesome.

One interesting thing about Perugia is that they have a series of escalators all over the city which help people from the “suburbs” make the journey to the center of the city, and part of this network is an underground tram which shuttles people through the area. The system was fairly amazing and very modern.

We then went to the underground fortress museum/ruins which was the perfect lair before finding a bus back to the train station. Taking a 2.5 hour train ride, we arrived at Rome around 8:30pm and took a crowded bus back to the stop near the Campo. One interesting thing was that a priest was right next to us on the bus, and I’ve never seen Italians so well-behaved. They don’t bat an eye when a nun is around, but the priest made everything very calm and orderly.

That was about it really for the weekend. The pictures for this might come later, as there are a lot of them and I don’t really have that much time!

Rome Update #5

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Dom, Rain, Rachel and I had originally planned go to a market on the other side of the river, leaving at 7:30am. I was exhausted and quite sunburned, so I already decided not to go when they woke me up at 10:30 (three hours later than planned) and asked if I was still going.

I couldn’t resist… so we walked the long way there in the sun to arrive at a “market” which was basically cheap random stuff ran by pushy vendors. And the super fun part about it is that the vendors seemed to repeat every 10 booths. It went on forever. Rachel and I split off from Dom and Rain and began to go on a quest to find the end of this eternal hell and find the tram to flee back to our apartments.

After finally finding a way out of the market, we started walking back along the river before discovering that the path was not open to the public the entire way, so we had to cut back *through* the market to thankfully run right into a tram line. Riding in air-conditioned splendour, we spent the rest of the day studying for class and preparing for a possible group interview the next day.

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Class with Walsh before going back to our apartment to hang out with Dominique and Rain before she left to explore part of Europe. Since she made us so many wonderful meals, we all helped make a 4-course dinner with tiramisu for the departure celebration(?)

Tuesday September 8th, 2009

Dominique was actually leaving this day, so after class we said our goodbye’s before she actually departed. This was also a pretty relaxing day as we were preparing for the rest of the week and were a little sad to see her go.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Woke up at 7:00am to get ready for the Papal Audience. After leaving from the Rome Center at 8:20 and walking to the Rome Center, a group of us then walked the rest of the way to the Vatican City. Unsure of where we were go to actually go when we got there, we simply followed the large crowd which was not normally there. After the obligatory security check, we were guided by a lot of Swiss guards to the audience hall. Luckily we got a seat, and waited about an hour with a bunch of overexcited Catholics from all over the world.

The Pope finally showed up, and it was pretty meh. He talked for a while, then some bishops talked, and then they did it in another language, and etc. Eventually, after about 5 languages later, they finally finished and we were able to leave!

We had class with Professor Walsh at 3:00pm because of the audience, and we were doing a mock meeting of the European Council of Ministers, with each class member being a different country. We were going to discuss the  predicted second failure of the Irish referendum to approve the Treaty of Lisbon.

The fun part of this is that when we were choosing countries on Monday, I decided on Sweden, not remembering that Sweden had just taken positition as council president. So I had to basically run the meeting with the professor sitting in the background listening and watching. It went pretty well, I kept calm while everyone was at each other’s throat over Ireland’s defense to their actions, and what to do with the failed Treaty of Lisbon.

Later, at 7:00, we had a reception in Professor Walsh’s rather large and amazing apartment for various lawyers, reporters, and other people who we were interviewing, trying to interview, or otherwise want to schmooze with. Thanks to Sabrina the food was quite excellent, and I think we had a fairly good time getting to know different people at the event.

Future

We’re going to Florence on Friday, and spending the night there before going to Venice on Saturday and then spending the night there, so I might be out of internet contact for a while.

Rome Update #4

Wednesday, Septemer 2nd, 2009

After the usual class with Professor Walsh, I then worked on my Italian homework, which was to translate a biography of an individual our group is interviewing, and then to find out how to get to the interview location. After successfully finding it without too much trouble (it is near the Pantheon and Chamber of Deputies), I ambled back in the searing sun to take a very much needed nap.

Then Rachel showed up at 4 or 5 or so, and we decided to wander around aimlessly since we had nothing better to do. After ending up at the Tiber river, we went north and explored the various bridges and enjoyed the sun setting over St. Peter’s and some obscure Piazza’s and assorted workings of Rome. Then we decided that while we would not be able to satisfy our burrito cravings in Rome, a cheeseburger from McDonald’s would also do the trick. There are signs all over Rome directing people to where the nearest McDonald’s is, so it seemed like a easy task to find one. Right?

Not really. It was pretty hard to actually find one, and took us about an hour of circling a few blocks to actually locate that particular MickeyD’s. After that episode, we then promptly got lost and walked about an hour in the wrong direction and ended up at the shopping district at around 9pm. Finally we got our bearings and had to take a large backtrack and circle to get back to the Campo.

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Pretty relaxed day. Another class with McCann before taking the rest of the day off until our group dinner at 7:20pm. After some fairly uninspiring food (yet free wine), a few of us decided to go off to the Spanish steps. 2000 billion steps later, we arrived at around 22:30 and started chilling. Rain was playing the guitar until a cop came along and somehow managed to say that music was not allowed at the “monument.” We were all rather confused about this, as other people were doing the same thing, but decided it wasn’t our place to argue this assertion. Then we split up again, and I was barely awake so I choose to go back to the apartment to sleep.

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Waking up at 6:00am, I showed up at the Rome Center at 7:20, ready for our bus tour! After heading out to the bus stop, it started a very interesting (and warm) Roman rain shower. Slightly soggy, we all climbed aboard the bus and travelled north. We stopped at a old “garden of monsters” which were a bunch of old sculptures and monuments of various objects, including giants in a fight, the “mouth of hell,” a leaning building, and a giant war elephant.

Getting aboard again we arrived at Orvieto, which is a mountain top town in Italy that is characterized by the fact that it’s on top of a large volcanic plateau.

Riding the funicular railway to the top and then a short bus, we were dropped off in front of a classic example of Italian Gothic architecture in the form of a church. Dom, Rain, Rachel and I then got tickets for the underground tour. The tour was basically a bunch of tunnels and basements that the residents in the city created for tax-free workspaces, storage, and shelter from the heat and (later) bombs.

Then we wandered around for a while, doing some shopping in the narrow streets. The town is noted for its ceramics, and this reputation certainly did not disappoint. Finally we ended up going down the side of the cliff to check out the necropolis and circle the city before coming up on the other side and walked up a very steep street that really hilighted the idea of “we will build whatever we want, whenever we want, and we don’t care how it looks” construction.

We got back on the bus at around 4:00pm, and after getting back at 6 or 7pm, took it pretty easy and retired to bed early.

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Dom, Rain, Rachel and I were going to the beach!

We woke up early, took a bus to the Romi Termini, and then a 1hr 20min train (6,20 euro each way) to Fondi, which is a town near the sea. The train station was huge, with trains going everywhere. Luckily Rain and Dom knew what they were doing and we managed to find the correct train and settled in an Air Conditioned Car. Another fun thing is that the stops are not announced, you have to look at the station signs when the train stops. Except some of the station signs are really hard to find, and you have to almost guess where you are. After meeting a large group of girls who were in our program who independently were going ot the beach, we travelled together for the next few hours. Arriving fine,  after missing the bus to the beach and waiting around the station, we took a crowded bus to Sperlonga (beach). Finding a "free" beach (most beaches are paid, where you pay to have a chair, umbrella and such), we set up camp and chilled on the Mediterranean Sea for 5 hours while swimming in the beautiful surf, eating Kabob, and soaking up the sun. After walking along the town and along the water, we came to a large sea cave before having to turn back.

At the bus stop, we suddenly found a marching band playing some pretty awesome tunes marching on the main street of town. Getting on the shuttle and then take the train back to Rome, we got back to Roma at around 10:00pm when Rain and Dom suggested we go to a pretty awesome place to eat that they knew about. It was pretty great food, and we took a bus back to the Campo after that.

I got sunburned on my front lower legs and feet pretty badly, but everywhere else was fine. I think the sunblock must have gotten washed off or I just didn’t apply enough.

Rome Update #3

Monday, August 31st, 2009.

The first day of class! We had a two hour session with Professor Walsh of the UW Law School and his course on civil rights and protections within the EU. After this we had an hour of Italian before being released for the day.

Rumurs were flying around that Julia Roberts was going to be outside the Rome Center filming a scene for her new film, and it seemed those rumors were true as a bunch of security guards, film equipment, and black walled vans showed up in the afternoon and began setting up lighting, cameras, and other such equipment. Some individuals went to the Rome Center (which had a direct overhead view of the scene) and were actually trapped in there for a brief period when they were filming. Individuals also claimed they saw Julia herself.

After this excitement, most of us went back to our apartment and retired at around midnight.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Second day of class, and this was EU/Italian/US comparative Law with Professor McCann. Following the usual two hours of seminar we had another hour of Italian. Taking the usual siesta from the Roman heat in the Library of the Rome Center, Rachel and I acted like Americans and celebrated being in Rome my hiding in the living room and watching Flight of the Conchords for a few hours. We then celebrated Kevin’s birthday and made him some Pesto Gnocchi that was quite amazing. Afterwards, Rain, Dominique, Kevin, Rachel and I went to the Trevi fountain at night and had some gelato along the way at the place where most agree has the best in town. The fountain was still fairly crowded at night, but still no less impressive. After getting back at 1am, there was another episode of the Conchords watched before retiring.

A few pictures have been uploaded to flickr.