The Capitoline Museums, Venice, and Gelato: Reflections on my Final Days in Italy

I cannot believe that my final blog post is being published over a week late, and I am so sorry for the extreme delay. After having a draft that I wrote in Venice deleted from my computer last weekend, I have been struggling to find the motivation to reproduce what I had written. This minor inconvenience combined with terrible jet lag has seriously set me back for a few days.

I arrived safely in San Diego after the longest flight of my life, and I have never been so excited to be home. Now I am ready to reflect on my study abroad experience, share some final photos from the Capitoline Museums, and wrap up my travel blog. Although I’m upset that my post is so belated, at least I can use this opportunity to add some photos from my final days in Rome.

I was walking past Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill last week when I realized that my perspective on this area had changed in four months. I finally understood how to find my way through the busy intersections and confusing cobblestone streets. After walking everywhere for almost four months, I became more familiar with the streets of Rome than the streets in my hometown.

I thought about wandering around during my first days with absolutely no idea what I was looking at. I remembered the first time that I navigated from my school to Piazza Venezia without getting lost. I remembered passing by the Roman Forum, admiring the ruins, and wondering what in the world each building had once been. Three months after seeing the Roman Forum for the first time, I was sketching the forum on a final exam and writing a short essay on its remaining structures. Three months ago I saw the Castel Sant’Angelo and learned about the Emperor Hadrian for the first time; last week I turned in a twelve page research paper on the construction projects of Hadrian and Nero. My first night in Rome I was so afraid of speaking Italian in public that I walked out of a gelato shop without ordering, but three months later I was excited to speak Italian whenever I could. Studying abroad certainly changed me.

During my last weeks in Italy I was able to tour my parents around Rome, take them to visit Pisa, and explore the streets of Venice with them. These trips made me realize how much I had learned about Italy in my short time there. Without having studied abroad, I would not have acquired so much information in such a short time. Walking the streets of Rome and visiting the sites with my class allowed me to understand the layout of the ancient city better than ever before. I had read about concepts like Roman bathing and politics, but having lectures in the bathhouses and ancient ruins was an entirely different way to study. The Ancient Roman Civilization course I took was outstanding, and it reminded me why I decided to study Roman history three years ago.

The final site visit for Ancient Roman Civilization took place at the Capitoline museums, and I have some photos to share of my favorite pieces from this collection. We were only able to visit one of the Capitoline museums during our visit, which gives me another great reason for me to return to Rome one day. I only visited a fraction of the museums, monuments, and restaurants in this enormous city, and I know that I’ll explore Rome again one day.

This replica statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback is the centerpiece of Piazza del Campidoglio, where my class met for our final site visit.
The original version of this bronze statue can be found inside of the Capitoline Museums in a recently improved exhibit.
I love the colossal statue of Constantine in the courtyard of the Capitoline museums. These pieces of this statue were originally from the Basilica of Constantine in the Roman Forum. This basilica (and this statue) once was dedicated to Maxentius, before he was killed and usurped by Constantine. The horizontal slice across the neck of this statue shows where Constantine replaced his enemy’s portrait head with his own.
This gilded statue of Hercules was found buried below the Temple of Hercules Victor in Rome. It appears to have been buried after having been stricken by lighting.
This piece, a portrait head of Commodus in the guise of Hercules, is one of my favorites. Not only is the marble work stunning, its existence provides us with interesting information about Commodus (the notorious emperor depicted in the Russell Crowe movie, Gladiator). Commodus received the damnatio memoriae after his assassination, which might lead you to wonder why we still have this well-preserved statue of him. The damnatio memoriae was reversed when Septimius Severus retroactively adopted himself into Commodus’ family. Therefore, this statue must have been created in honor of Commodus after that decision by the next emperor.
We ended our site visit that day overlooking the Roman Forum from a balcony in the Capitoline Museums. This was one of the final panoramas I took in Rome. Without my camera’s ability to take panoramas, I could not have captured nearly as many beautiful photos of Italy.

Taking a course on Ancient Roman Civilization while studying abroad in Rome was so helpful. By the end of the semester I was able to identify locations throughout the city on a map, describe the purpose of historical monuments, and understand daily life in the ancient Roman world. I was also lucky to take two other courses with knowledgeable and kind professors. Studying Latin literature while living in Rome was a unique experience, and it brought me closer to others who have a passion for history and literature as well. I am also grateful for my Italian teacher who made our small class feel like a family and made me look forward to going to class each day.

After completing my Latin final, I took a cab across town to attend a farewell lunch with my Italian class and our teacher. I couldn’t believe how quickly our classes were coming to an end. We shared a bottle of Prosecco and cannoli.

My one regret from this experience: not eating more cannoli while in Italy.

The next day I woke up early to accompany my parents on their trip to Pisa and Venice. They continued crossing sites off their bucket list, and I was given another chance to explore these cities. The last time that I visited Venice, Tyler and I stayed on the island of Murano and spent most our time there. Visiting Venice again was fantastic, and I finished up all of my Christmas shopping in an assortment of shops near St. Mark’s Basilica.

We decided against the traditional Pisa pose for this photo.


Seeing St. Mark’s Basilica in person was definitely worth the trip to Venice. The piazza was a great place to grab a cappuccino and watch people play around with the friendly hordes of pigeons.
The Grand Canal is gorgeous at night. Venice is unlike any city I have seen.

During my last days in Rome, I became oddly sentimental. I sadly said goodbye to all of my favorite buildings, ate a final meal at both of my favorite bars, and photographed every gelato that I ate (in case it was my last). As excited as I was to go home, I was also coping with the fact that my study abroad experience was ending and  I was about to leave Italy. My last days were bittersweet, and I still miss being in Rome. The time abroad passed more quickly than I expected.

I needed to stop and take a picture of the Pantheon with Christmas decorations surrounding it. Rome was beautiful throughout the month of December. I wish I could have spent Christmas there too.
As I said farewell to the Castel Sant’Angelo, I realized that this statue of an angel looks like it might be using a selfie stick to take a picture. Maybe I had just been surrounded by selfie sticks for too long.
My parents wanted me to pose for one last photo in Piazza Dell’Orologio. Going to school in this beautiful piazza every day for four months was a perfect experience. The location was ideal.
My last cappuccino and pastry in Italy. I don’t want to admit how many pictures I took that were similar to this one. For a few days I assumed that every cappuccino would be my final cappuccino.
My final gelato at midnight before my early morning flight. I don’t know how I’ll live without gelato, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.

A few months ago I read about an altar dedicated to the goddess Fortuna Redux, “Fortune who brings you home” found along the Via Appia in Rome. I remember at that time I was so anxious to go home, and the idea of Fortuna Redux resonated with me. Now I’m sitting at home, getting ready to publish this final (belated) blog post. Although I am certainly happy to be home in San Diego, I also wish that I could be back in Rome. After I fully recover from this experience and feel ready to travel again, I know I’ll be planning another adventure abroad and future trips to visit more sites and restaurants in Rome.

I realized that Rome is not going anywhere, and that those cups of gelato were not my last. Maybe a few years from now I’ll celebrate my college graduation by returning to this wonderful place that reminded me why I love studying history. Perhaps I’ll visit the Via Appia and thank Fortuna Redux for bringing me back to my second home, anywhere in Rome.

Thank you for reading my blog! Arrivederci!

The Galleria Borghese and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

This week has been an exhausting and exciting addition to my study abroad experience. My parents arrived in Rome on Tuesday, and we will be exploring the city together for the next two weeks. This is their first time travelling outside of the United States, and I am so excited to show them around this incredible city. After spending the entirety of Wednesday recovering from jet lag, they celebrated their arrival with a homemade Italian dinner on Thanksgiving. I had the chance to show off my recently acquired culinary skills, and my mom learned that I am capable of using a kitchen without starting any fires. I took them to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum on Friday, which gave me the opportunity to pretend that I’m a professional tour guide.

Unfortunately, when we returned to our apartments on Friday afternoon I suddenly came down with the worst cold I have had in years. I could not stop sneezing and coughing for most of the weekend. Of course this sickness attacked at the worst possible time, the week before final exams and paper deadlines. I am finally feeling like a human again today (barely), and I have mustered up enough strength to drink some warm tea and work on this blog post. I have a research paper to finish tomorrow, a Latin final to study for, and an amazing city to share with my family, so I refuse to let this cold bring me down. This week I’m thankful for my parents who bought me orange juice, the heater in this apartment, and the cold medicine I brought from home.

My parents have also lived in San Diego for the majority of their lives, so the cold weather here has been a difficult adjustment. They had the time of their lives walking through the Roman Forum. My dad has wanted to see the Colosseum since he was a kid, and he was so happy to cross that experience off his bucket list.

On Thursday afternoon, I visited the Galleria Borghese with the two other students in my Latin class and our lovely teacher, Tessa. This semester we have been translating pieces of Book 1 from Livy’s “Ab Urbe Condita” and several famous stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The theme of our class is mythology, and we have analyzed our translations of these mythological stories to understand their significance in the Roman world.

Although Latin is not a very large or popular subject, it is certainly a worthwhile topic to study. Reading classical literature in the language in which it was written is such a rewarding experience. In our small class, we spend plenty of time discussing the importance of individual Latin words and trying to understand how complex sentences express ideas. We try to imagine the scenes depicted in the texts and understand the motives of the authors and mythological characters. We have a lot of fun in our little class, and our visit to the Galleria Borghese was great! We went from room to room searching for mythological characters, recognizable gods, and familiar stories from our translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The sculptures in the Galleria Borghese were breathtaking; I stood in awe of this particular piece, amazed by the detailed creases in the mattress.
This statue shows the god Pluto (Hades in Greek mythology) capturing the young girl Prosperina and taking her to the underworld. This was the first statue we saw at the museum, and it was absolutely amazing.
In this statue, the Trojan warrior Aeneas carries his aged father on his shoulders as his son follows behind them. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, the story of Aeneas is told. The line of Aeneas eventually leads to Romulus and Remus, the twins who are said to have founded the city of Rome.
This altar (originally from Ostia Antica and now housed in the Palazzo Massimo museum) shows the twins Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf. It is said that Romulus murdered his twin brother because Remus was mocking him by leaping over the newly built city walls.

Before continuing with photos from the Galleria Borghese, I would like to introduce some of the speeches written by my Latin class. On our last quiz, we were asked to write a speech persuading a mythological character to make a certain decision. I wrote a speech convincing Romulus to kill his brother Remus called “In Favor of Fratricide” and my classmates both wrote speeches to Lucretia, a woman who committed suicide after being raped by the son of the last king of Rome. This activity was a fun way to express our opinions on the mythology we have studied so far, and insert our own ideas into the ancient texts. At this point, I would like to share the three speeches with my readers, and we hope that you enjoy them!

To Romulus: his brother Remus is mocking him by jumping over the new city walls.

“Look at Remus over there, teasing you and romping around like a fool. If you cannot control your brother now, then how will you be able to control this city together? This city does not need two leaders, one who ridicules and the other who resents. This city cannot be built on such an unstable foundation. This city will never grow strong if one of its leaders believes it is laughably weak. You must eliminate the problem and erase the precedent that your brother is trying to establish. Kill your brother. Show the world that no one who jumps over your city walls will live to tell the tale!”

To Lucretia: she has just been raped by Sextus Tarquinius and is left alone in her room.

“No part of you is culpable for the rape and nothing about you is less honorable than it was before. In fact, you can continue to be a most admirable wife by encouraging your husband in his seeking revenge promptly, and living to express your gratitude when he returns. Do not add to his suffering (that is, the suffering of learning that his wife has been threatened and desecrated by another man) by making him a widower. You may think it is honorable to kill yourself but, in fact, it is more honorable to endure your pain and be there for your husband.”

“Although what happened to you is truely horrible, your death wil solve nothing. It will only serve to further hurt those who care for you. You have a loving husbund, a caring father, and other close friends which you can rely on. Ask for their help. They will listen. If you seek vengeance, then have your friends join you, and kill the man who destroyed your life. Enter his home in a similar manner and slit his throat as he sleeps. If he threatened you with humiliation, then you should humiliate him. In any case, these are suggestions, not orders. Make of it what you will…”

After writing our speeches on mythological scenes and translating these scenes into English from Latin, it was really rewarding to explore the museum searching for images of Lucretia. These are three of the paintings that we found of Lucretia on the walls of the Galleria Borghese.


This statue was my favorite in the Galleria Borghese because we had just finished translating this scene with Apollo and Daphne. After Apollo mocks Cupid, he is stricken by one of Cupid’s arrows that makes him fall madly in love with Daphne. Meanwhile, Daphne is stricken with an arrow that makes her resist Apollo’s advances. When Apollo persists, Daphne begs her father (a river god) for help and is transformed into a tree.
The detail on this statue was incredible. Her toes are turning into roots, her fingers are transforming into leaves, and her torso is covered by a realistic textured bark. It was absolutely beautiful, and definitely reminiscent of the scene in Ovid’s Metamorphoses that narrates this story.
We also found two other familiar stories from our recent translations. The painting on the bottom shows the young girl Europa being carried off by Jupiter disguised as a bull. The top painting shows Actaeon being transformed into a deer after accidentally seeing Diana naked.
In this scene the hero Perseus is flying in on Pegasus in order to save the beautiful Andromeda from a sea monster.
We also encountered plenty of depictions of Leda, a woman who was seduced by Jupiter disguised as a swan. Leda was supposedly the mother of Helen of Troy, and her story inspired a common motif in Renaissance art.
Another Leda above this doorway–we almost missed this one!
This was my favorite depiction of Leda and the swan.
In this painting, the mother of Perseus, Danae, is about to be visited by Jupiter (Zeus) in the form of a golden rain.
When Jupiter wasn’t busy cheating on his wife with other women in the form of animals and minerals, he occasionally spent some time with Juno.
Oh, and here is one of my favorite pictures from the Galleria Borghese: a chubby little Cupid. Look at that belly. Isn’t he cute?

Our visit to the Galleria Borghese was one of my favorite site visits of the year, and I was so happy to spend that day with my Latin class looking for various mythological references. The more I learn about Roman religion and Latin literature, the more I understand the classical references that are so prevalent today. The Roman world influences our world in innumerable ways, and studying Classics is a wonderful way to appreciate these influences. Spending a semester in Rome has reminded me that my decision to study Classics was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I am always learning new things.

I am going to wrap up this blog post, make some more tea, take some nighttime cold medicine, and attempt to sleep. As much as I hate being sick, I will not let this terrible cold keep me from studying and writing during this final week. Thanks for reading this week’s post! Arrivederci!


The Art of the Brick- A LEGO Art Exhibit in Rome

I must admit that this week has been difficult for me. With essay deadlines and final exams approaching rapidly, I dedicated every day to translating, researching, and reading. Today I had a site visit at the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, and roaming around this dense historical center was the most relaxing part of my week. This weekend I plan to drink a few gallons of coffee, skim through several books on Hadrian and Nero, and produce the first draft of my research paper. I am finally understanding that this experience will be over in less than one month, and this realization is stressful. To make matters slightly worse, my boyfriend flew home to San Diego on Wednesday morning. Although I was upset at first, I am incredibly grateful that he was able to spend all of this time with me while I studied abroad. He would still be here with me if it weren’t for the mandatory 90 day restriction on travel without a visa.

We arrived in Rome on August 21st, celebrated our second anniversary and my twentieth birthday here, lived in a beautiful apartment in Trastevere, and explored this magnificent city together for several months. I cannot imagine what this experience would have been like without Tyler by my side, and I am happy to have made so many memories with him during these past months. I feel so lucky to have someone in my life who is willing to drop everything to accompany me on an adventure abroad. Even though he is home in San Diego once again, it feels like he is still here in Rome with me because everything reminds me of the time that we spent together (and also because we are constantly using the video chat feature on Google Hangouts. In fact, I’m chatting with him and my dogs while typing this post tonight).

Since I did not have much time during the last few days to explore Rome by myself, I am going to share some pictures from an adventure that Tyler and I shared last week. After one of my classes, we walked from the Accent Center in Piazza Dell’Orologio through Piazza Navona to the Pantheon, past the Trevi Fountain, to the Piazza di Spagna, around the Spanish Steps because they were closed, through the Villa Borghese, and finally arrived at a LEGO art exhibit at the Spazio Eventi Tirso. When we first saw the posters and advertisements for The Art of the Brick exhibit, Tyler told me that he needed to see the LEGO art before he left Rome. He didn’t care about seeing the Sistine Chapel, or the Galleria Borghese, or the Pantheon; he only wanted to see the collection of LEGO sculptures. Of course I was more than willing to go to this exhibit, not only because I love Tyler, but also because I love everything LEGO.

My boyfriend and I are LEGO brand fanatics, and I am not ashamed to admit that. We visit Legoland at least twice a month, we are always in the process of building new sets, and in our free time we have been known to scroll through pages of LEGO related websites. Last Halloween we were the among the only adults without children to spend the day at Legoland. Where did we celebrate my boyfriend’s 21st birthday? Legoland. We have an entire room filled with our LEGO sets, and we recently needed to have shelves installed because we ran out of storage space. I am not bragging about our LEGO fixation; this is just the reality of the situation. So when we saw a LEGO art exhibit was in Rome, we dedicated an entire day to visiting it. It was one of the best days that I have had in Rome so far, and even though this blog post has nothing to do with history, I still wanted to share the magic of this art exhibit with my readers.


One of our first stops was the recently refinished Trevi Fountain. This picture is zoomed in to block out the massive crowd of people that were surrounding us. The lighting was perfect for taking a picture of the fountain itself, but it was terrible for taking any selfies.
And here is a LEGO Trevi Fountain that is sitting in our LEGO themed room at home. Photo credit to Tyler who so kindly got out of his chair to take this picture for me when I asked.
Although we could have taken a taxi or a bus to the Villa Borghese, I always prefer to walk while I’m in Rome. Walking gives you the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful scenery and observe other people who are exploring Rome as well. It is also the best exercise, which is necessary if you want to feel less guilty about indulging in so much gelato.
The Villa Borghese was so lovely! Next week I have an excursion with my Latin class to the Galleria Borghese, and I am so excited to return to this beautiful place. Next week I’ll have more photos to share of the wonderful sculptures and artwork inspired by mythological stories.
We accidentally walked the wrong way in the Villa Borghese when we were trying to navigate to the LEGO exhibit. To be fair, there are no wrong turns when you’re strolling through such a pretty park. Our mistake allowed us to see some fountains and visit a free museum.
In the free museum that we stumbled upon while looking for a bathroom, we found this awesome sculpture of a man wearing a toga with the head of Vespasian. Roman portraiture often used the same style of bodies while only adapting the heads, so it was common for a toga covered body to have its head replaced over and over again. So efficient!
This picture shows another lovely scene from our accidental walk in the wrong direction. To me, this is further evidence that you shouldn’t be afraid of getting a little bit lost when wandering around. The fall colors are so beautiful! After living in San Diego my entire life, it is strange to live in a place that experiences the changing of the seasons.
I do not have much context about what is shown in this picture, but from the inscription it appears to be dedicated to the Divine Emperor Antoninus and his wife Faustina. I do not know if this is an original or a replica.
This is another example of the beautiful fountains in the Villa Borghese. I loved the water horses that are holding up the center of the fountain.
We also found an area that functioned as an off-leash dog park, so we spent some time on this bench watching dogs romp around in the leaves. When Tyler was taking this photo of me, I realized that I never know what to do with my arms and hands in photos. This pose was my solution.
And then we entered the art exhibit composed entirely of LEGO bricks. The artist, Nathan Sawaya, an American artist who left his job at a law firm to pursue his dream of crafting LEGO sculptures.
Each piece had a comment from the artist beside it, and the comment on this piece was that “everyone insists on sitting next to the blue man and imitating his pose.” Tyler wasn’t planning on doing that, but since everyone does it, we felt that it was required.
This was the piece that has been used to advertise the exhibit, and it was one of my favorites that we saw that afternoon.
We entered a room that was filled with LEGO replicas of famous pieces of art. In the background you can see the Scream, American Gothic, and the Discobolus. It was outstanding.
The Mona Lisa in LEGO bricks.
The Creation of Adam reproduced in LEGO bricks.
The LEGO version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The LEGO version of The Great Wave Off Kanagawa was interesting because the wave in the foreground was three-dimensional and set off the flat background. The picture doesn’t depict this aspect very well.


This LEGO version of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt was also three-dimensional.
When I saw the LEGO version of The Kiss, I thought to myself “Why does that look so familiar?” Then I remembered that I have been sleeping under a canvas copy of this painting the entire time that I have been in Rome. I took this photo in my apartment earlier this evening.
This LEGO statue of the Venus de Milo was the most impressive piece in the collection. I cannot fathom his ability to replicate the folded pieces of cloth and the curves of her figure with little bricks.
Here I am with my favorite historical figure once again, but this time he is made of LEGO bricks! This replica of the Augustus of Prima Porta made the long trek to this exhibit completely worthwhile.
Another impressive example of the artist’s ability to create almost any famous piece of art from LEGO bricks. He said in one of his quotes that he would love for children to learn about art history through LEGO models, and I think that is a fantastic idea.
If I remember correctly, this piece was called “Swimming”
I may not have had enough time to visit Greece during this trip to Europe, but at least I got to see a LEGO Parthenon. Also, three months later and we still cannot take a decent selfie to save our lives.
This massive LEGO head was called “Sing” I loved all of the monochromatic pieces in this collection.
These sculptures represent not only the three primary shapes but also the three primary colors.
This sculpture of a couple kissing was also one of my favorites; feel free to ignore the collection of brightly colored skulls in the background.
The final sculpture in the exhibit was this colossal dinosaur.

The Art of the Brick exhibit was one of the coolest experiences that I have had so far in Rome. All of these pictures truly do not show how massive, intricate, and impressive the sculptures are. I also only included a fraction of the photos that I took because there were too many pictures to share them all in this blog post. The exhibit will take place until the middle of February, and I definitely recommend taking the time to check it out. Even if you aren’t a LEGO fanatic like me and Tyler, I think that everyone will appreciate the amount of detail and effort that Nathan Sawaya puts into his art. If you have ever played with LEGO bricks, you can understand how difficult it must be to craft a six foot tall dinosaur or a life sized statue of Venus from these tiny rectangular bricks. I know that this blog post isn’t historical (aside from the LEGO examples of famous artwork), but I could not resist sharing this awesome experience.

Thanks for reading, ci vediamo!

Feeding an Empire at the Ara Pacis, The Baths of Caracalla, Ostia Antica, and Beyond!

I have learned a new trick for slowing down my time in Rome: fill every day with activities to make each day seem longer. My Ancient Roman Civilization course kept me busy this week with three different site visits, and this weekend I ran around the city with Tyler trying to see as many sites as possible together before he flies home on Wednesday. On Monday my class visited the Ara Pacis museum to check out an exhibit on the diet of the ancient world called “Feeding an Empire.” Unfortunately we were crammed into the small exhibit with several classes of elementary school students, which is basically my worst nightmare. After tutoring students of all ages throughout college, I’ve realized that I really do not like being around kids. Despite the crowding and the screams of exhausted elementary school students, the exhibit was still amazing. I loved looking at loaves of carbonized bread and collections of Roman silverware.

I arrived early on Monday and sat next to this beautiful fountain outside of the Ara Pacis. Rome is filled with fountains, and I am going to miss all of the fountains dearly when I leave next month.
Our class had a lecture in the shade by the Mausoleum of Augustus before entering the exhibit. We could hear the children shouting from outside the museum, and our professor decided that it would be best to get the serious lecturing out of the way before we went into the madness.
The Ara Pacis museum was rebuilt by Richard Meier to house Augustus’ altar of peace. One of the unique aspects of his design is the inclusion of the Res Gestae on the back wall of the museum.
This reconstructed map of Rome has provided historians with useful insights on the port of the Tiber river. Our professor was ecstatic that this famous piece of archaeological evidence was on display in this exhibit. Once again, I am always impressed by the ability to reconstruct ancient sources with fragmented physical remains.
This particular fragment “LIA” was believed to be the last three letters of the label “Porticus Aemilia.” However, recent research in 2006 has led to the conclusion that this might actually be a fragment of the word “Navalia” (shipyard). If the “LIA” represents the word “Navalia” this would explain this building’s placement on the Tiber, its size, shape, and purpose. The prior explanation created many unresolved questions that the new explanation seems to explain. Why does this matter? To me, this research is fascinating because it shows how seemingly resolved matters can always change, even in the field of Classical Studies.
Roman cheese grater. Are you loving it? Because I’m loving it.
Ladles, bowls, and colanders!
Look at all of the pans!
Spoons, plates, bowls, and decanters! Ancient spoons are amazing!
This contraption is a chafing dish that would be used to keep dishes warm during a banquet.
One of the main attractions at this exhibit was the collection of carbonized food from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here we have some miscellaneous beans and nuts.
Carbonized peas, nuts, beans, and other scarcely recognizable food-stuff.
My personal favorite was the carbonized loaves of bread. I know that all of this ancient, blackened food is probably making you hungry.
The main reason that I took a picture of this Dionysus food tray is because I really want something like this in my dining room one day. Obviously it wouldn’t be an original, but it would make a great conversation piece. I don’t think they sell these at IKEA. Where can I find an artist who will sculpt a bronze Dionysus serving tray? 
This fresco depicts the luxurious banquets that were common among the aristocrats in Rome. I was particularly amused by the man in the lower right corner, who appears to be so intoxicated that his buddy is having to hold him up. Maybe that’s not the case, but that is what I see in this image.
My favorite pieces in this entire collection were the bronze pig and rabbit molds that could be used to shape loaves of bread or meat. It reminded me of the Satyricon by Petronius when the tacky host Trimalchio makes his cook produce lavish and disgusting meals that are in the shape of animals.
After we escaped the madness at the Ara Pacis exhibit, I wandered to the Pantheon to have a quick snack and watch crowds of people walk around in confusion. I attempted to take a decent picture that captured how busy this piazza can be, especially around lunchtime.
Inside of the Pantheon it is almost impossible to take a good panorama with everyone moving around. If you load the full size of this picture you will see a few people with elongated heads and bodies as the result of walking through the panoramic picture.
I love popping into the Pantheon for short periods of time during the day. The architecture is incredible, the decor is breathtaking, and it is my favorite place to observe tour groups.

On Wednesday I hurried to the Circus Maximus where my Ancient Roman Civilization class was meeting for another exciting site visit. We left promptly at 11:30 (even though some students had not arrived yet) and walked a short distance to the Baths of Caracalla for a lecture on bathing in the Roman world. Bathing was an important aspect of daily life in the Roman world, and it was expected that all civilized Romans visit the bathhouses every day. Bathhouses were abundant in Roman cities; some bathhouses in individual neighborhoods were small, while other bathing complexes in the center of the city were grand, elaborate, and built by the emperor for his people. The Baths of Caracalla is an imperial bath complex donated to the Roman people in the year 217 AD. It was the second largest bathhouse in the city of Rome, and it provided a place for the people to bath, exercise, dine, shop, and socialize.

In the early afternoon, every Roman man was expected to go to the baths to conduct his daily business. He would not only exercise at the gym, lifting weights and wrestling in the nude, he would also clean himself and relax in the various rooms of the bath complex for several hours. These rooms were either heated or chilled; some rooms included warm or cool plunge baths, while other rooms were solely for relaxing in the warm air or sunbathing. Imperial bath complexes also included Olympic sized swimming pools, several palestra for exercising, and shaded walkways for strolling around the lush gardens. The bath complexes would also contain various shops, fast food restaurants, wine sellers, libraries, apartments, and meeting spaces. You could get your hair cut, have your toe nails clipped, or even have your armpit hairs plucked out. If you were thirsty, you could get drunk! If you felt like getting a prostitute, you could find a prostitute there as well! Bathhouses were the place to be. All of your friends and acquaintances would be at the bathhouse, and if you weren’t there, then you weren’t civilized or sanitary. I wish that it was still socially acceptable to walk around gardens, exercise, drink wine, socialize, shop, and relax for the entire afternoon. That would be nice.

The mosaic floors at the Baths of Caracalla are some of the most beautiful examples of mosaics that I have seen. I cannot even imagine what this complex would have looked like when it was first constructed. I am sure that it was a luxurious place to spend the afternoon.
Here is another beautiful example of the mosaic floors found in the Baths of Caracalla.
This is a game board to play a game similar to mancala. I forgot to mention that it would also be common for Romans to play board games while they socialized at the bath complexes.
The complex itself was very peaceful. It seemed that most tourists ignore this destination in favor of the Colosseum or the Roman Forum. The Baths of Caracalla are definitely not something that you should overlook if you plan on taking a trip to Rome. The location is so quiet and green that it is easy to forget that you’re in a crowded city.
Unfortunately, many of the mosaic floors are being deteriorated by harsh weather and rain. It is a shame to see these priceless examples of Roman art being worn away by the weather.
Our professor shared an interesting fact about a strategy used to prevent damage to ancient Roman monuments. Rome has been invaded by hordes of pigeons and seagulls. These birds have highly acidic poop, which can cause irreparable damage to the ancient monuments. To prevent this problem, falcon keepers are being allowed to release their birds for short periods of time to scare off the pigeons and seagulls. The falcons are well-fed, so they do not eat the smaller birds, but their presence is enough to rid Rome of its unwanted flying guests. It has been working well so far!

My final site visit this week was on Friday, and it was my favorite site visit of the entire semester. We set out to Ostia Antica, a beautifully preserved Roman town about thirty kilometers outside of Rome. During the late Republic and the early Roman Empire, Ostia was the primary port city of Rome. Ostia, which means “mouth” in Latin, was originally on the Tiber and next to the Mediterranean sea. The sea has moved several kilometers since anquity, and Ostia Antica is no longer directly on the beach. Unlike Pompeii or Herculaneum, Ostia was not destroyed by a natural disaster. The city was abandoned over time as a new port developed, and was eventually deserted when the Western Roman Empire fell.

As a port city, Ostia supported maritime trade and assisted those who participated in commerce. Therefore, the city of Ostia not only had the features of a standard Roman city (bathhouses, a theater, and a Forum), but it also possessed hotels, commercial outlets, and other shops that catered to travelers. Ostia is a wonderful archaeological site that should not be ignored by those who plan to visit Rome. Ostia is larger and less crowded than Pompeii, and it allows visitors to explore the entire city freely without many restrictions.

If the beauty of this picture doesn’t convince you to visit Ostia, then I don’t know what else to say.
This unique mosaic functioned as an advertisement for a local wine seller. It reads “Fortunatus says: if you’re thirsty, then drink!” Notice how there is also a large image of a wine cup, which would allow visitors who were unfamiliar with the Latin language to understand what was being sold at this shop.
This is one of my favorite pictures because it shows how the “damnatio memoriae” works. Although the name “damnation of remembrance” implies that no one should try to remember those who are punished with this sentence, this image demonstrates the reality of this punishment. The damnatio memoriae was a reminder that you were supposed to forget someone who was terrible, like a particularly bad emperor. Instead of taking down this entire pillar, they just crossed out the name. Don’t forget to forget the terrible emperor!
Another beautiful image of the quiet and verdant areas within the ruins of Ostia Antica.
Unlike Pompeii, it is possible to wander down the streets of Ostia without bumping into countless tourists.
The theater in Ostia is one of the best preserved examples of Roman theaters that remains today. It is currently being restored so that it can continue to function as a theater during the summertime.
These mosaics were used to advertise the businesses that took place inside of various shops on this road. For example, this person may have traded exotic animals for public shows and circuses. 
This counter would have been used to serve “fast-food.” Another example of this type of shop exists in Pompeii, but visitors in Ostia can explore the inside of the store and stand behind the counter.
Our professor said that this fresco serves as another advertisement for the services provided in this store. She said that carrots are being steamed on the far left, a type of meal is being presented in the middle, and the image to the right is either “cheese or a musical instrument.” I think that this is a hilarious toss-up. Well, it’s either cheese or a musical instrument. Maybe both, who knows?
From the rooftops of Ostia, we were able to take in this magnificent view of the ruins.
This is another view from a rooftop in Ostia; in the background you can see Ostia’s museum.
Pigeons are the worst. They always act like they own the place.
After enjoying the views from the rooftops, we went to Ostia’s Forum and tried to imagine what each of these structures may have looked like before the city was abandoned.
The road pictured here is the decumanus (east-west) road. Ostia was originally a military camp for Rome, so it was laid out in a perfect orthogonal plan, in which the Forum is at the crossroads of the decumanus (east-west) and cardo (north-south) streets.
The remains of the temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the central deity of the Roman World. The temple to Jupiter would always be found at the northern end of the Forum in a Roman town.
The most disgusting and amazing thing about Ostia: well-preserved Roman latrines!!! Here you could gather with your closest companions to do your business together! The hole in the top of the latrines is obviously for excreting waste, but you might be wondering what the holes in the front of the latrines are for. Even if you weren’t wondering that, I’m going to tell you anyway because it is terrible. Romans didn’t have toilet paper, so they used sponges on sticks. The front hole would be used for dipping your toilet sponge into the water to clean it off! Don’t worry, if you forgot your sponge or didn’t like to use your own sponge, there were communal poop sponges available as well.
If you are still disgusted by the thought of communal poop sponges, here are some pictures of the friendly cats that wander around Ostia during the day.
This one was being adorable and climbing all over the walls. If I didn’t have an allergy and a fear of cats, I would have been tempted to approach these cuties.
Ostia is also the home to these outstanding Roman mosaics that can be found in most art history textbooks. Bathhouses often had mosaics that depicted aquatic scenes, like sea creatures.
This famous mosaic depicts Neptune with his trident riding in his chariot of aquatic horses. The sun was beginning to set when I took this picture, so the lighting is not ideal. It is incredible in person.
Ostia was too beautiful to describe with words or depict in photos. I wish I could have explored the rest of the city on Friday, but I will have to return as soon as possible to finish my adventure there.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the eighth week of core courses in my study abroad program. Only three full weeks remain, and then I will face my final exams. Even though my time here is coming to a close, I can look back on my blog posts and feel satisfied by how much I have seen and the amount of new information I have learned. To all of my professors, friends, and family who encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and visit Rome, thank you. Being here has changed my understanding of the ancient world, and I can’t wait to come home and share my stories with everyone. Now it’s time for me to make a late night trip to a gelateria with Tyler because I’m addicted to gelato.

Thanks for reading, arrivederci!

Five of My Favorite Emperors

The first week back in class was a frightening reminder that the end of this program is imminent. The amount of reading in my history class is slowly dwindling down, I have finished more than half of the material in my Italian book, and we are finally translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses in my Latin course. The next three weeks in my Ancient Roman Civilization course consist of site visits that I remember excitedly reading about on the syllabus six weeks ago. Tyler is leaving Italy in less than ten days so that he can return to his classes in California, and I’m trying to squeeze as many activities as possible into our last days together. This week we are going to eat dinner at the pizzeria Dar Poeta, which my friend Jared recommended to me several months ago. I’m certain that he is reading this post and feeling amazed that I still haven’t gone to the pizzeria he once described as “mystical.” On the bright side, my careful financial planning has allowed me to afford nice dinners, souvenirs, and museum tickets in November. Hurray for not spending all of my cash in two months!

In one of my blog posts a few weeks ago, I discussed my Roma Pass museum adventures and shared some of my favorite photos from those days. I took over 300 photos during those three days, and today I wanted to share some pictures of amazing Roman portraiture from the Palazzo Massimo. Every statue that I saw was incredible, and I probably have photos of the majority of the museum’s collection. However, I wanted to focus on the statues of my favorite Roman emperors and take some time to share their stories. The transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire has always fascinated me.

If I had to choose a single historical figure to study for the rest of my life, I would choose Augustus without any hesitation. I cannot imagine what sort of hypothetical situation would require me to make that strange decision, but I think that I could sacrifice my entire life to studying the age of Augustus. I had originally planned to write this post entirely about Augustus, but I cannot resist discussing the rest of the Julio-Claudian and the Flavian dynasties as well. I love terrible emperors like Nero and Caligula just as much as I love great leaders like Augustus. I truly hope that these stories about my five favorite Roman emperors are enjoyable to read. Keep in mind that these emperors are listed based on my personal favoritism, and this is not a list of the best emperors, or even “good” emperors. I’m a student, not Machiavelli.

  1. Augustus: the Princeps, the Pater Patriae, the legend

Why do I love Augustus? I have too many reasons to count. Having acquired power at the age of eighteen after the assassination of Julius Caesar, Octavian proved to be capable of almost anything. From eliminating the conspirators who killed his adoptive uncle to reestablishing an era of peace in Rome, Augustus was responsible for countless major changes in Roman history. It has been said that he found Rome made of mud and left it as a city made of marble. He was a master of propaganda, and he manipulated his public image with great success. Perhaps the reason that I speak so positively of Augustus in 2015 is because of how well he crafted his public image between 44 BC and 14 AD.

Another outstanding aspect of the Augustan era is its length; while most Romans were lucky to live to the age of forty, Augustus reigned for forty years and lived to be seventy-six years old. It is hard to imagine how Roman history might have changed if this leader’s reign had not lasted for so long. During his forty years in power, Augustus took possession of Egypt as a Roman province, revitalized Roman religion, assumed many of the primary positions in the Roman government, established a new form of coinage, built new roads throughout his Empire, and adorned the capital city of Rome with monumental buildings. He was the first among citizens (princeps), the father of the fatherland (pater patriae), the chief priest of Roman religion (pontifex maximus), and many other honorary positions as well.

Augustus is awesome, and despite some of his actions that I don’t approve of (like banishing Ovid from Rome), he is still my favorite Roman leader.

Hanging out with my favorite Roman at the Palazzo Massimo.
The wife of Augustus, Livia, who popularized the hairstyle seen in these busts.
Statues of Augustus are everywhere in Rome. It seemed like every museum has at least one depiction of Augustus.

2. Hadrian:

Maybe my fascination with Hadrian has been slightly exaggerated on this blog. Before I came to Rome I did not know a lot about Trajan or Hadrian, but I have learned so much about them in my time here that I feel the need to share all of these facts in my blog. Hadrian is my second favorite emperor because I adore his construction projects, many of which still exist today. He rebuilt the Pantheon, constructed his mausoleum (The Castel Sant’Angelo), and designed the Temple of Venus and Roma, which is thought to have been the largest temple during his time. Perhaps one of the reasons that I love Hadrian is because I associate him with the design of the Pantheon, which has been replicated endlessly in the United States. In fact, many government buildings and monuments are modeled on Roman and Greek architecture. Whenever I think of Roman architecture, I’m reminded of the Emperor Hadrian.

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. bears a striking resemblance to the Pantheon.
Hadrian was also a lover of Greek culture, and he brought the beard back into style in the Roman world.
Hadrian was also a lover of having Greek lovers. Pictured in this relief is his favorite young boy, Antinous, whom Hadrian adored. After Antinous died under mysterious circumstances, Hadrian had the boy deified and founded a cult dedicated to the worship of Antinous. This cult spread through the Empire and became wildly popular. Some scholars claim that Hadrian was unhappy in his marriage to Sabina, and that throughout his life he seemed to express a preference for young men. Nevertheless, Hadrian’s pederasty and love of Antinous symbolizes his connection to Greek culture.

3. Tiberius

Tiberius is my third favorite Roman emperor because his reputation in Roman history is simply unfair. It must have been difficult to live up to the expectations with Augustus as his predecessor. As both the step-son and inherited son of Augustus, he became Roman Emperor around the age of 56 in 14 AD. Tiberius did not desire to be princeps, but he reluctantly accepted the titles bestowed upon him. Tacitus and Suetonius claim that Tiberius refused the titles of pater patriae, imperator, and augustus. Although he tried to act as Augustus had acted, he could never be as beloved as Augustus was. Tiberius allowed the Senate to make decisions, but the Senate still resented him.

After the death of his son in 23 AD, Tiberius seemed to have grown sick of politics. He gave authority to the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, and retired to the island of Capri in 26 AD. When Sejanus plotted against Tiberius and attempted to seize power violently, he was condemned by the emperor and sentenced to execution. This situation led to drawn out treason trials against those who had joined Sejanus and conspired against Tiberius. Although Tacitus and Suetonius portray Tiberius as a blood-thirsty and vengeful emperor who took pleasure in eliminating the conspirators, modern historians have found these claims to be misleading. The treason trials seriously changed the reputation of Tiberius, and he lived out his final days in Capri. Tiberius left power to Caligula and his own grandson, Gemellus, but Caligula had Gemellus executed.

Maybe my favorite thing about Tiberius is his association with Caligula; without Tiberius, we wouldn’t have Caligula! Without Caligula, there would be no stories of widespread terror, sadism, murder, horses elected as consuls, and brigades of soldiers being told to collect seashells on the beach. The entire reign of Caligula was a disaster, and we have Tiberius to thank for that disaster.

A bust of Tiberius as a young man.

4. Nero

Nero is another one of the emperors whom I love to hate. Like Caligula, Nero was an insane combination of a narcissist and a megalomaniac. To be honest, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero are wonderful examples of men who did not belong in power. After Caligula was assassinated, his uncle Claudius (whose partial deafness and limp had caused him to be excluded throughout his life) was declared the new emperor. Although Claudius was a surprisingly talented leader despite his lack of experience, he was often perceived as vulnerable and weak. His niece, Agrippina the Younger, convinced Claudius to marry her and adopt her young son, Nero. Claudius accepted, adopted Nero, and made him joint heirs with his own son Britannicus. In 54 AD, Claudius was poisoned by Agrippina, and the following year Britannicus was also poisoned, presumably by the wishes of Agrippina as well.

Why do I love Nero? I think the stories that surround his personality and his time in power are hilariously ridiculous. He supposedly played his musical instrument with glee as he watched Rome burn to the ground in the fire of 64 AD. He loved to sing, play instruments, recite poetry, and act in other ways that the Romans considered to be shameful. He competed in the Olympic Games and nearly died racing a chariot. It has been said that he would bribe judges at poetry competitions in order to win, and eventually he would just have the prizes sent to Rome because he knew that his victory would be certain. He was the first emperor to actively persecute Christians, and he even blamed Christians for starting the fire of 64.

When a vast region of Rome was destroyed by that fire, he used the land to build himself a palatial mansion, the Domus Aurea (Golden House). This mansion had a zoo, an artificial lake, several bathhouses, private villas, vineyards, groves of fruit trees, area for private flocks to roam, and endless rooms for entertainment. It has been said that when the construction was completed that Nero snidely commented “Finally, I can live like a human.” Rome was recovering from a terrible disaster, but Nero was happy to finally have the mansion he always wanted. Isn’t he the greatest? After a rebellion arose, Nero committed suicide and his memory was erased through the damnatio memoriae. Suetonius tells the story of how Nero couldn’t even muster up the nerve to kill himself correctly. After pacing back and forth muttering “What an artist dies in me!” Nero begged one of his companions to set an example and commit suicide first. As a shameless narcissist, Nero couldn’t kill himself, so he had another companion do the deed for him.

Nero probably doesn’t deserve to be on this list of my favorite emperors, but I fell in love with his terrible character after reading the gossipy tales in “The Lives of the Twelve Caesars” by Suetonius.

5. Vespasian

Vespasian is the most recent addition to my list of favorite emperors because for the last few weeks I have been researching his reign and the construction of the Colosseum. Perhaps the reason that I like Vespasian is because he was the general who acquired power after the tumultuous year of the four emperors. He founded the Flavian Dynasty, and he was left with the difficult task of cleaning up the mess left by Nero. After returning the land from the Domus Aurea to the Roman people, he started projects of his own. Vespasian started construction on the Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, on top of area that was once Nero’s artificial lake. He was also the first Roman emperor to be succeeded by his biological son. Thanks to Vespasian, we have the Colosseum today, and that makes him one of my favorite emperors.

Vespasian looks so grumpy and wise in this depiction.
Thanks for building one of my favorite things in Rome, Vespasian!

Maybe with my talent for writing irrelevant lists full of pictures I could land a job at BuzzFeed one day! Just kidding, I like to write about history, not pander to random trends. Also, I’m too tired to continue writing coherently, so I think that I should get some sleep. Thanks for reading! Arrivederci!

Pisa, Florence, and Venice

I’m typing this week’s blog post on the train from Venice to Rome; this is my fourth time on a high speed train in the past three days, but it’s my first time that I have ever attempted to write while on public transportation. Typically I prefer to sleep uncomfortably, stare aimlessly out the window, or read a book. Focusing on my laptop to write this post is proving to be a more nausea inducing experience than I had originally imagined. I have a feeling that this post will be shorter and less history-packed than usual because it’s dedicated to my brief vacation to Pisa, Florence, and Venice. I spent only three days of my ten day vacation to travelling through Italy, and it has been exhausting and stressful. I couldn’t imagine how dead I would feel right now if I had ventured outside of Italy for an extravagant weeklong trip to five countries like some of my peers. Kudos to anyone who can travel without becoming easily exhausted.

We left Rome on Thursday at 5:00 AM so that we could be the first group to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa at 9:00 in the morning. I am not a morning person, and almost every time I have to wake up early I consider cancelling my plans for the day and sleeping for the rest of my life. (To be brutally honest, I’m not really a night person either. Maybe I’m a mid-afternoon after two cups of coffee person?) So I consumed as much coffee as possible, packed my bags, and cursed the gods for making me wake up before the sun was in the sky. When we arrived at Pisa it was raining heavily, which made our Leaning Tower ascent a death-defying adventure. After a worker swept all of the rainwater down the 296 steps of the tower, we were allowed to start climbing the slippery stairs to the top. I definitely recommend this experience for anyone who wants to visit Pisa. The climb was literally intoxicating; I have never felt more tipsy in my life without having consumed any alcohol. Several other climbers were commenting how it felt like a fun-house, and the climb really alters your perception of what is leaning and what is not. Try to choose a day with better weather than we did!

There is a beautiful view from the top of the Leaning Tower, and we were happy to have survived the climb. Stairs are my nemesis, and I was so afraid of tumbling down the flight of slippery stairs.
We caught this rainbow peeking out from behind the clouds as we ascended. Maybe going to Pisa on a rainy day wasn’t too bad of an idea.

Although it was raining and the tower was wet, I am definitely glad that I didn’t allow my hatred for waking up in the morning to prevent me from going to Pisa. We did not have much time to walk through the town, but seeing the brightly colored houses along the Arno River even for even a few minutes was worth the trip. Also, the Leaning Tower and the Piazza dei Miracoli might be the best people-watching location in the entire world. If you want to see hordes of people acting like fools and performing imaginary Tai Chi in public, then the Piazza dei Miracoli is the place to be. After buying a few souvenirs and watching the police chase away flocks of illegal street vendors, we went to McDonalds.

People watching is one of my favorite hobbies, and Piazza dei Miracoli was the perfect place to watch people of all cultures gather together to put their arms up in the air and block pathways. It was a joyous occasion.
I decided to hold up the Pisa Cathedral. Isn’t that the point? You’re supposed to just choose a monument in Pisa and support it with your hands in a picture, right? I don’t know. Everyone else was posing like this, so I had to join the fun.

You might be asking, why in the world would you go to a McDonald’s when you’re in a country with such amazing cuisine? The answer is simple: my boyfriend and I are huge fans of the TV show “The Simpsons,” and we wanted to replicate one of our favorite scenes from an episode when the family visited Pisa. I can’t link the video to my blog because of copyright infringement issues, but in our favorite scene, Homer is facing away from the actual Leaning Tower when he says “Wow, I’ve seen photos of this but you can’t really experience it until you’re here! A McDonald’s that serves booze!” Despite the fact that neither of us eat fast food when we are in America, we were determined to order some beers at McDonald’s. We have been joking about doing for more than a year, and it was just as satisfying as we had always imagined. The beer was okay.

“A McDonald’s that serves booze!”
I love this guy. All he wanted during our trip to Italy was the chance to drink a beer at the McDonald’s in Pisa, and the smile on his face shows how much this experience meant to him.

From Pisa we hopped on another train and went to Florence, a city that I wish I could have explored for longer than eight hours. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or the energy to visit the Uffizi or the Galleria Academia, so we settled on walking around without a map and seeing some beautiful architecture along the way. I have embraced the idea of being lost in Italy, and wandering has become my new favorite mode of transportation. In the time that I have lived here, I have learned how much I enjoy walking from place to place. I have a feeling that when I return to San Diego I will not want to drive to the taco shops and parks that are less than five minutes away from my house anymore.

Somehow this picture of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is the only picture that I took during my time in Florence. My phone died after a long day at Pisa, and I was too busy enjoying my vacation to worry about photographing it.

After checking into our hotel room, we walked to a quaint Irish-style pub and had the most delicious and affordable meal. We also sampled some home-brewed beers, which were certainly preferable to the McDonald’s beers from earlier that day. The bartender was friendly, and she made all of the food by herself. Feeling impressed by her recipes and intrigued by the Mexican food on the menu, we tried her rendition of nachos, which were freshly seasoned and coated with a combination of mozzarella and ricotta cheese. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to eat regular nachos again; the superiority of Italian cheeses made this version of nachos the best that I had ever tried. Although we had already eaten too much for dinner, my friend Jared recommended that we get some organic gelato from his favorite gelateria in Florence, so we walked to the Piazza Duomo to try it. Jared, I know that I’ve already thanked you for this recommendation, but I feel obligated to thank you again. Anyone who plans to visit Florence must go to the Edoardo gelateria. This gelato changes lives.

The next morning we had a lovely complimentary breakfast at the cafe next to our hotel, and then we hurried to catch another train to Venice. We disembarked at the main train station in Venice, but we stayed in an apartment in Murano, one of the islands in the Venetian lagoon. After spending a long day surrounded by tourists in Pisa and Florence, I wanted to stay somewhere a little less crowded on Friday and Saturday. Murano was the ideal place to spend the last two days of our vacation. I was pleased to learn that Murano was originally settled by the Romans, and it became famous during the Venetian Republic for its glass making techniques. In 1291 AD all of the Venetian glass foundries were moved to Murano in order to prevent fires and destruction in the city of Venice. Murano was once the main producer of glass throughout Europe, and its glass is still renowned for its quality, beauty, and creativity.

Murano was gorgeous, and I wish I could have spent more time there as well. It was like a mini-Venice with canals, gondolas, and beautiful artwork.
A panorama of Murano that I took before dinner on our first night in the city.

I love glass artwork and the process of glassblowing, so strolling through Murano was a relaxing and enjoyable experience after two days of rushing to catch trains on time. We spent several hours poking our heads into shops, admiring the trinkets in the windows of each store, and watching the artists work. Of course, I ended up acquiring a huge bag of Christmas gifts for my family and myself. Each piece of Murano glass was so beautiful that it was difficult to decide what I wanted to add to my collection. Our apartment also boasted a beautiful collection of glass that the owner’s son had made in his workshop, and the walls were adorned with authentic Murano glass as well.

All of these pictures are examples of the glass artwork that decorated our apartment in Murano.



Even the bathroom door was inlaid with Murano glass.

Yesterday was also Halloween, and we were surprised to see how many children were trick or treating in Murano. We spoke to a shop owner who said that in the last two years Halloween has gained popularity, particularly in Murano, because of the large population of kids. The kids loved it, and they were running wild throughout the town, popping into shops and yelling “Dolcetto o Scherzetto!” Tyler and I chatted with the shop owner for a while about American Halloween traditions and Italian holidays, and we answered some of his questions about the origin of Halloween traditions like trick or treating. The adults in Murano seemed to enjoy the holiday as much as the children; they handed out huge handfuls of candy, treats, and toys. One shop owner even gave a glass necklace to a mom whose newborn was being carried around in a pumpkin costume. The kid’s costumes were mostly homemade, and all of the kids dressed as traditional Halloween characters like zombies, witches, ghosts, and vampires. There wasn’t a Princess Elsa, Walter White, Batman, or Chewbacca in sight. Tyler and I celebrated Halloween by indulging in some prosecco, opening two Kinder Sorpresa Eggs, and watching the fourth season of American Horror Story. I couldn’t imagine a better party! I’m boring, I know.

A bag of Lindt chocolate truffles that made our Halloween spectacular.
Kinder Sorpresa Eggs are illegal in the United States because for some reason we believe that our children are not intelligent enough to avoid choking on the toys inside the chocolate. I was curious to see what all the fuss was about, so we bought two for Halloween. Don’t worry, we survived without impaling ourselves on the toys.
Wait a second, the toy is enclosed in an interior plastic egg that is too large to fit down an esophagus. There is no way that anyone could accidentally consume the plastic part of the Kinder Egg. In fact, that would be an incredible feat.
Toys! My egg contained a pirate Minion and Tyler’s egg contained this…lizard paintbrush? I’m not sure what it is, but it certainly shouldn’t be illegal in the US. Give kids some credit; having toys inside chocolate isn’t going to kill anyone.

This has been one of the longest, most exciting, and most memorable weekends of my life. The ten day break in my study abroad program really refreshed my spirits after the stress of midterms, and now I feel ready to tackle the last half of this quarter. Above all, I’m ready to return to a normal diet of home cooked meals and take a break from eating ridiculous vacation food like nachos and fried mozzarella bites. Next week I will also return to writing blog posts with some historical substance, rather than recounting the tales of my vacation. My train should be arriving at Roma Termini shortly, so it’s time for me to shut down my laptop and sign off. Thanks for reading, ci vediamo!

Rome in Three Days: the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palazzo Massimo, and more!

It seems that every week my blog post begins with the same sentiment: I can’t believe how quickly the time here is slipping through my fingers. After completing all of my midterms last week, I was relieved to have a week long break, but I was also upset that my time abroad is almost over. When I first arrived, I was constantly thinking about my dogs, my friends, my university, and everything that I missed about being at home. Now that it’s October, I’m beginning to consider everything that I’ll miss about living in Italy. How will I be able to live without an espresso machine at home, infinite gelato shops on every corner, and ancient artifacts within walking distance? How have I been here for three months without seeing the Roman Forum and the Palatine hill? On Thursday afternoon I realized that I seriously need to get moving if I want to visit all of the museums, ruins, and sites on my itinerary.

In order to motivate myself to visit as many museums as possible during my break, I picked up a three day Roma Pass.  The Roma Pass provides free entrance to two museums or archaeological sites, free access to all public transportation within the city of Rome, and discounted tickets to most of the museums in Rome. It also allows you to skip the long lines at major attractions like the Colosseum and the Castel Sant’Angelo, which makes the Roma Pass a valuable asset. Certain sites are grouped together, like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, and other museums have multiple branches throughout the city. By selecting two sites with multiple attractions, it is possible to visit plenty of museums with the two free admissions. We visited four sites in three days: the Palatine Hill/Roman Forum/Colosseum, the National Roman Museum (the Baths of Diocletian and the Palazzo Massimo), the Castel Sant’Angelo, and the National Etruscan Museum. Regular admission for these museums would have cost around 42€. The Roma Pass was only 36€ and provided us with free access to public transportation as well. The purpose of this long-winded paragraph is to recommend the Roma Pass to anyone who loves museums, hates paying for individual bus tickets, and values their time too much to stand in long lines.

In three short days I was able to see many of the sites and museums on my “must see while in Rome” itinerary. In fact, I took so many pictures during the three days that I’m going to share them throughout my next two blog posts. I wanted to produce one post about the experience, but I realized that this would be impossible to write coherently in a short post (and it wouldn’t be enjoyable to read). Instead, today’s post will consist of my favorite pictures from the experience and historical context about Hadrian and the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Our first stop was the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, which was the most beautiful area of Rome that I have visited so far. I was in classical studies heaven as we walked around and checked out the remains of various temples and monuments. I’ve seen so many photos of the Roman Forum before, but nothing beats the experience of walking through the Forum and imagining what it would have been like during the height of the Republic or the Empire.
In front of this magnificent arch, you can see the remains of a Republican era chain-link fence with ancient Roman warning signs. Yes, I make terrible jokes like this every time I see modern fixtures next to ancient monuments. “And if you look to the right, you will see an ancient electrical box.”
The Roma Pass was 36€, but walking directly into the Colosseum without waiting in a two hour line with screaming children and grumpy tourists was priceless.
Visiting the Palatine hill and the Roman Forum was a spectacular experience, and these sites were more peaceful and less crowded than the Colosseum. I could have spent an entire day sitting around in the imperial palace or watching people walk by in the Roman Forum. I will certainly return to spend more time on the Palatine hill before I leave.

The next day we visited the Palazzo Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian, which are two branches of the National Roman Museum. I could have never imagined how extensive the collections would be. The statues, frescoes, and inscriptions that I have studied for three years were in display cases right in front of me. Roman museums are unlike anything else that I have ever visited.

A statue of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus that appears in almost every world history textbook. I was a little bit too excited when I saw this statue, and I forced Tyler to sit in that room with me for ten to fifteen minutes while I ranted about how amazing Augustus is. The Palazzo Massimo had so many famous statues and busts of Roman emperors, and I plan to include these pictures in one of my next posts about the various emperors of Rome.
Just one small piece of the incredible collection of statues housed at the Palazzo Massimo.
This glorious fresco was found in house of Livia, the wife of Augustus. I wish that WordPress would allow me to enlarge my panoramas to their full size, but it won’t. Since the panoramic photos are too small, you can click on the images and view them in a separate window.
In the basement of the Palazzo Massimo was a huge collection of coins from every time period of Rome’s history. I easily could have spent several hours just in this room, examining each of the coins individually.
The museum within the Baths of Diocletian also possessed an outstanding collection of Roman artifacts, statues, and Latin inscriptions. The museums in Rome not only contain incredible pieces of history, they are also housed within beautiful buildings with unique architectural designs.
I think that the ability to piece together entire Latin inscriptions from small, fractured segments is so impressive. I can barely translate a full paragraph of Latin with two dictionaries, editor’s notes, grammar charts, and an English translation at hand for extra assistance.
The sign on the door and the angry head above the door are saying “Do not enter!”
The Baths of Diocletian were so massive that it’s almost impossible to capture the entire height of the structure in photos.
We also visited the Baths of Diocletian an hour before it closed. This gave me the chance to sit alone in the cold bath room, which is illuminated with blue lights after dark.

On the third day of our Roma Pass adventure, we were exhausted. We started at the Castel Sant’Angelo in the mid-afternoon, and once again we enjoyed the ability to enter the site without waiting in line. The Castel Sant’Angelo was designed by the emperor Hadrian and erected between 134 and 139 AD. Although it was constructed as a mausoleum for Hadrian and his family, many of the original contents were destroyed and removed after it was converted into a fortress in the 5th century. Today the Castel Sant’Angelo is a museum, and it mostly focuses on the building’s history as a fortress and prison. The museum contains sparse references to Hadrian, the man who designed and constructed this magnificent mausoleum, which was once the tallest building in Rome.

To be honest, I was disappointed to see that Hadrian’s memory was almost erased from this monument. In honor of Hadrian, who is one of my favorite Roman emperors, I would like to share some facts about his life and his accomplishments. Born in Spain, Hadrian was orphaned at the age of ten and was raised by the future emperor Trajan, one of his father’s cousins. Under the guidance of Trajan, Hadrian pursued a political career and held various public positions in his cursus honorem. Hadrian, while on a military campaign in Syria, was adopted by his predecessor Trajan, who was deathly ill at the time. Due to the fact that Trajan’s wife, Plotina, signed the adoption document, this adoption was controversial. Hadrian had to earn his new position as emperor by securing an endorsement from the legions and the Senate. After obtaining power, Hadrian spent more than half of his reign travelling outside the city of Rome. As emperor, Hadrian avoided militaristic pursuits (aside from the Second Roman-Jewish war) and he reduced the territories of Rome by declaring certain possessed lands to be indefensible. The Senate did not support Hadrian’s policy of non-aggression, and some historians believe that the emperor’s travels allowed him to avoid dealing with the Senate in Rome.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Hadrian had a passion for architecture. Having been raised in the house of Trajan and his architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, Hadrian was inspired to pursue his architectural goals as emperor. Hadrian designed many of the buildings at his villa in Tivoli, constructed his family’s mausoleum, rebuilt the Pantheon, and built a new temple based on his design that Apollodorus had ridiculed. He also wrote poetry in both Latin and Greek, fortified Britannia with a wall, and re-popularized the beard. Hadrian is an fascinating historical figure, and visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo was an interesting opportunity to think about his impact on the history of Rome.


I told Tyler to stand in one place because I wanted to take a panorama. Instead, he decided to run to the other side of the courtyard so that he could make a second appearance in this photo. I still love this picture. Of course, you can’t see this at all, because WordPress ruins my panoramas.
The Castel Sant’Angelo was once a mausoleum for the emperor Hadrian; it is now a mausoleum for lost hats that have fallen off during windy days.
Despite the lack of information about ancient Rome, the Castel Sant’Angelo boasts some outstanding views of the Tiber River and Vatican City.
I really hate selfies, but sometimes selfies are the only way to take a good picture without passing your phone to a total stranger.
Oh look! A single glass case was dedicated to the original appearance of Hadrian’s mausoleum. Cassius Dio may have been referring to this statue atop the mausoleum in the following quote. “It was so large that the bulkiest man could walk through the eye of each horse, yet because of the extreme height of the foundation persons passing along on the ground below believe that the horses themselves as well as Hadrian are very small.”
The interior of the Castel Sant’Angelo was slightly difficult to navigate. We passed by the same rooms countless times and struggled to find an exit when we were finally exhausted from walking in circles. But it was great exercise!
This was the one of the few depictions of Hadrian that I could find as we walked around.
A panoramic view of the perpetually busy bridge leading into the Castel Sant’Angelo.
After the Castel Sant’Angelo we walked to the National Etruscan Museum at the Villa Giulia. We arrived two hours before the museum closed, and we were the only visitors there. Being alone in a museum filled with ancient burial treasures and ritual sculptures was kind of creepy. I’ll post more of these pictures in my upcoming post on Roman religion.
All of the monuments in Rome are so beautifully illuminated at night!!!

Now that I have a week to explore Rome (and the rest of Italy), I’m looking forward to writing more posts and sharing more photos from these museums. I hope to write a few new blog posts this week while I’m on the train to Pisa, Florence, and Venice. Thanks for reading! Arrivederci!

Pompeii in Pictures

I woke up on Friday morning at 5:00, excited and exhausted as I packed my bag for Pompeii. After spending three hours on the bus with other students from my Ancient Roman Civilization course, we arrived and disembarked, ready to explore the ancient ruins with our professor. Wandering around Pompeii was unforgettable; I was finally able to visualize the architectural descriptions of Roman homes and structures that I had read about in text books.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.  destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other Roman towns along the Bay of Naples. While Herculaneum was instantly consumed by pyroclastic flow at the base of the volcano, Pompeii was destroyed by the intense heat and molten rocks raining down after the eruption. The remains from Pompeii, though often fragmented, have allowed historians and archaeologists to develop a more thorough understanding of life in a Roman town. Walking through the ancient city was certainly a solemn and humbling experience for me. As I tried to imagine the lives of Pompeii’s inhabitants, I felt connected to these individuals. Their homes, pets, food, entertainment, worries, desires, and all other aspects of their daily lives are so similar to our own.

Rather than writing a detailed description of Pompeii’s history, today I would like to share some of the photos from my visit and use the captions to explain some aspects of life in the ancient world. Four years ago when I began learning Latin and studying ancient Rome, I was most interested in the differences between our culture and theirs. However, today I find myself marveling at our similarities and realizing that humans have always acted, to put it simply, like humans. Although there are plenty of differences to be discussed, connecting to antiquity by discovering our shared humanity is a more fulfilling task.

We started our site visit outside of the city walls, where burials would have taken place. Pictured is one of the many elaborate tombs.
We started our site visit outside of the city walls, where burials would have taken place. Romans desired to be remembered in the afterlife, and the inscriptions on their tombs often told the story of their lives to visitors entering the town.
Our professor was incredibly excited to see that this palestrum was finally open to the public for the first time in her career. She was less impressed by the spooky, distracting background music that was being played over speakers in the portico. She commented “I don’t know why they can’t open any new modern exhibits for visitors without the weird, creepy background noise.”
This palestrum would have been the training ground and exercise yard for young men. Surrounded by a three sided portico to provide protection from the weather, the palestrum was an important venue for exercise and socialization during the daily lives of Roman men.
The new palestrum exhibit includes cases of objects found during the excavations of Pompeii. We were all amazed by the ancient dice that look exactly like the dice that we all know and love today.
Over the walls of the palestrum, it is possible to see Pompeii’s amphitheater. The amphitheater was built after Pompeii became a Roman province in 89 BC under the authority of Sulla. A venue for gladiatorial shows was considered a requirement of all Roman towns, and this uniquely designed amphitheater was erected to fulfill this requirement.
The unique design of this amphitheater allowed it to be identified in a wall painting that depicts a riot during a gladiatorial event. This riot was so chaotic and destructive that the town of Pompeii was forbidden from hosting any gladiatorial events for ten years. When a large earthquake took place three years after the riot in 62 AD, the emperor Nero decided to revoke the ban on gladiatorial battles to revive the spirits of the townspeople.
A panoramic view inside of the amphitheater. I have incredible respect for those who are able to read and translate Latin inscriptions like this one. I can stand in front of Latin inscriptions for hours without being able to decipher the letters, abbreviations, or meaning.
Pompeii was beautiful in the early morning and became crowded very quickly in the afternoon. My travelling tip still holds true: always visit sites as early as possible. Also, the trees in the background of this image are known as umbrella pines, and are mentioned by Pliny in his letters to Tacitus about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. He described the cloud of debris from the volcanic eruption as resembling “umbrella pines” that were commonly found in the area surrounding Mt. Vesuvius.
Inside of the amphitheater a large wooden pyramid has been built that holds the plaster casts of those who died in Pompeii. These remains were preserved using a method discovered by the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli. The Fiorelli method involves pumping plaster into the hollow cavities left by the bodies that had rotted away beneath the volcanic rock. These plaster casts allow us to know how these men, women, and children spent their final moments.
While most seemed to spend their final moments lying on their backs, this particular cast depicts a person huddled over in a seated position. To me, this cast was the most upsetting; it expresses fear and despair. Being in this room was a solemn reminder that the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was a calamity. Despite the archaeological importance of sites like Pompeii, it is still worth remembering the humans who suffered in their final moments on August 24th, 79 AD.
The skulls and teeth of these remains were still intact when the plaster casts were made. The couple cuddling together in their final moments was another heartbreaking reminder of these humans’ unfortunate fates when their lives were brought to a premature end.
To be honest, I’m still confused about what this individual was doing at that moment. He seems strangely at peace with the situation.
There is Mt. Vesuvius lurking in the background over a vineyard in Pompeii. Several ancient sources attest to the fact that Mt. Vesuvius was not believed to be a volcano. It was described as a “conical hill” in some cases. Others believed that it was once a volcano, but it could no longer erupt.
This marble counter top belonged to a storefront that served food to people walking down the street. Most Roman houses did not have a personal kitchen, so it was common to eat meals on the go. That’s right, the Romans had fast food.
Open gardens, called peristyles, in the back of the home were a common feature of the Roman domus. This garden has been replanted so that visitors can imagine what it may have looked like before the eruption.
It’s an obsidian mirror! Not only is this a cool example of Roman objects that resemble modern objects, this obsidian mirror is incredibly rare. Only a few other examples of obsidian mirrors have been discovered in the Roman world.
Wall paintings, columns, and porticoes were essential features in the Roman domus. Pompeii is a spectacular site because many of the frescoes have been preserved, which allows us to understand how colorful and vivid the inside and outside of Roman structures once were.
This little niche in the wall is an ornate example of a lararium, or a shrine to the household gods. Romans not only worshiped their gods publicly at temples, they also revered their ancestors and a set of gods who were thought to protect their homes and families.
Although I took many pictures of frescoes at Pompeii, the majority of the photos were blurry and failed to show the true beauty of the paintings. But I had to share this fresco of Narcissus, observing himself in the reflection of the water. Before the era of Netflix, wall paintings of your favorite mythological scenes would provide you with entertainment.
Another image with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. I heard several people criticizing the residents of Pompeii for “being stupid and living so close to a volcano” on Friday. I wanted to remind them of two very important details: 1) Many of the residents were veterans of Sulla’s army who received the land for their service. No one in their right mind would have rejected their right to land in the Bay of Naples based on the paranoid suspicion that perhaps the nearby mountain was a volcano. That would be ridiculous.      2) Again, Mt. Vesuvius was not believed to be an active volcano. People living in Pompeii at that time were not idiots who willingly chose to live next to a potentially destructive volcano. Despite the fact that my professor clarified this several times, everyone still enjoyed mocking the people who died in the disaster.
I have no idea what these blocks actually are, but we were referring to them as “ancient Roman Lego bricks”
As a Lego enthusiast and a huge fan of things that I don’t understand, these miscellaneous blocks were pretty awesome. WHAT ARE THESE?
An interesting feature of Pompeii is the prevalence of bricks. Unlike Rome and other larger cities, Pompeii did not have access to expensive materials like marble. Instead, monuments like this triumphal arch were constructed with bricks and then covered in a layer of plaster that would be painted to look like ornamented marble. It’s  unfortunate that all of their hard work has vanished, and we’re left with the ugly bricks that they tried to cover up with plaster.
The main forum of Pompeii was in the process of being reconstructed after the major earthquake in 62 AD. When the city was frozen in time 17 years later, it remained apparent that many buildings were still being rebuilt.
This area was dedicated to the deified emperor Vespasian. The altar and surrounding district is interesting because it was built after Vespasian’s death in June 79 AD. Two months later Mt. Vesuvius erupted, which makes this one of the most recently finished projects before the destruction of Pompeii.
This is another brilliant example of how columns in Pompeii were composed of brick and then covered with plaster to resemble white marble. The column in the background shows the difference between the brick and plaster. I love how the Romans inventively used the materials that were available while still creating the illusion of grandeur.
The basilica of Pompeii on a beautiful day. The basilica was an important venue in the forum that served as a courthouse. Many civic affairs would have been conducted here, and it played a crucial role in the politics and daily lives of citizens in this town.
A massive collection of various vessels alongside the plaster cast of man’s best friend. This dog was discovered chained up in the entry way of its master’s home, protecting the belongings inside.
More miscellaneous vessels and a treasure chest! It was common for Romans to flaunt their wealth, and this chest was found in the main atrium of a home where every incoming guest could wonder what magnificent treasures were inside the locked box.
Roman latrines!!! Benches with strategic holes would be placed across the stones jutting out of the walls, and groups of men would sit down to do their business together. I’d like to imagine that they also used this precious time to discuss the gladiatorial battles and the results of recent elections.
Going to the public baths was also an important part of daily life in ancient Roman towns. This bath facility in Pompeii was beautifully adorned with sculptures, mosaics, and reliefs. Pictured here is the roof of the hot water bath.
In the hot water bath facility, these clever rivets in the walls would guide condensation from the roof to these small overhangs. This prevents condensation from dripping onto the heads of the bathers below. Another smart solution implemented by the ancients.
As I mentioned previously, many Romans loved to flaunt their extravagant wealth. In the case of this domus, the House of the Faun, the owner had acquired the land from two properties to create his giant estate. This unnecessarily large doorway practically screams “I have a lot of money!”
The House of the Faun is named after the little statue in the center of this picture, the Dancing Faun. From the front of the domus, you can see the two peristyles and massive size of this private residence.
This is only one of the peristyle gardens from the House of the Faun. Although this estate is gorgeous, its size and grandeur does not represent an average Roman domus.
This mosaic is one of the most famous pieces from Pompeii. It reads “Cave Canem” (Beware of the Dog) and once again it is a reminder of how certain aspects of life are so similar to the lives of the Romans. Before we left Pompeii, I picked up my own “Cave Canem” souvenir to hang up at home so that I can warn people about my vicious pack of dachshunds.
This panorama was taken at a villa outside of Pompeii, the Villa of the Mysteries. The villa is named for the painting in this room, which seems to depict a young woman being initiated into the mystery cult of Dionysus. However, this interpretation is frequently debated by scholars because it seems unlikely that the initiation practices of a mystery cult would be depicted in art. No matter what the subject actually is, the fresco is an outstandingly well preserved and beautiful example of Roman wall paintings.
After a long day of exploration, I asked a friend to take a picture of me in front of these preserved wooden shutters at the Villa of the Mysteries. This Villa once sat upon a cliff overlooking the sea, and these shutters were used to block the breezes from entering the bedrooms. I love it!

Visiting Pompeii and the Villa of the Mysteries was a wonderful learning experience, and I loved exploring the homes, shops, and civic buildings frozen in time. Wandering through Rome and other towns from the Roman world, I realize how clever, creative, and resourceful humans have always been. From our desire for entertainment to our love of luxury, we share many qualities with those who lived in the ancient world. Studying abroad has provided me with a unique opportunity to see so many historical monuments in person, and I’m grateful for this every day. Until next time, ci vediamo!

On Storms, Sickness, and Studying Abroad.

Recently life in Rome has been throwing me some curveballs. For several weeks I avoided contracting the cold of fall 2015 that was being passed around the study abroad program, but I finally fell to the dreaded sickness. After a few days of bed rest and fluids, I began to feel better yesterday morning. I spent the weekend watching a thunderstorm through my bedroom window and hoping that I would feel like myself again by Saturday night. Last month I booked a nighttime tour of the Colosseum, and I was determined to get out of bed for this experience. Although it was still raining heavily on Saturday evening, we trudged through the storm to meet our tour group at Trajan’s Column.

A rainy night in Piazza Venezia.
A rainy night in Piazza Venezia in front of the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

I had already planned a blog post about the history of the Colosseum that would allow me to share some pictures and information from this tour, but the bad weather interfered with my plans. Our tour guide announced that they were not able to open the Colosseum that night due to the storm, so we were given a full refund and sent home. I jokingly commented that Jupiter had been warning us with the recent thunderstorms, and no one in the group (except for my boyfriend) seemed very amused. I was definitely disappointed that nighttime tour was cancelled, but I was also happy to be out of the house again.

Our disappointed tour group huddled together in the rain, waiting to discuss refunds on the Colosseum Tour.
Our disappointed tour group huddled together in the rain, waiting to receive their refunds for the cancelled Colosseum Tour.

After taking some blurry photos of Trajan’s Column and telling Tyler a few of my favorite stories about Trajan’s architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, we hurried home. I’ll probably discuss Trajan and Apollodorus in greater detail when I write about Hadrian and the Castel Sant’Angelo, but now it’s worth mentioning that Hadrian had Apollodorus banished and put to death because he had ridiculed Hadrian’s architectural designs. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t purposefully offend people, especially those who will eventually become emperors. That is how you get banished and sentenced to death.

Standing in front of Trajan's Column, which looks strangely bland in this blurry picture.
Standing in front of Trajan’s Column, which looks bland and boring in this disastrously blurry picture.
A stock image of Trajan’s Column that shows how detailed and ornate this beautiful piece of architecture is.

On our way home yesterday evening, Tyler and I started talking about life in Rome, including our challenges, our successes, and our overall lack of preparation. This conversation inspired me to compose a few packing lists for any prospective study abroad candidates who happen to read my blog. I want to share with other students some of the most useful items I packed, the least useful items that needlessly weighed down my suitcases, and some things I’ve learned about Rome so far.
The Most Useful Items I Packed:

  1. Cold and Flu Medicine: without this box of magical pills, I would probably still be miserable. I recommend bringing medicine from home to prevent an emergency trip to the farmacia.
  2. Hydrocortisone cream: Roman bugs are ruthless, and I’ve heard a few complaints about the price of bug bite cream in Italy. Bring your own to relieve the pain immediately when the legions of bugs attack.
  3. Vitamins: multivitamins can be expensive here. If you are used to taking a daily vitamin at home, then bring enough to last the duration of the trip.
  4. Plenty of t-shirts and tank tops: with the humidity and heat in Rome it is impossible to wear shirts more than once without feeling sticky and disgusting. I vacuum sealed almost twenty tank tops and t-shirts to save space in my suitcase, and I’m grateful for this decision every single day.
  5. School supplies: for the sake of saving money and time during the first few days here, bring your own school supplies from home. It is possible to buy notebooks, binders, and index cards here, but it was really convenient to have everything prepared before classes started.
  6. Clipboard: maybe this item should have been included in the school supplies category, but I think it’s important enough to list separately. Having a clipboard has been essential for taking notes during site visits.
  7. Ziploc Bags: I recommend buying a big box of plastic bags and packing them in your suitcase because they are always useful (for snacks, leftovers, organization, etc.) and seemingly impossible to find in stores here.
  8. As many socks as possible: as I said before, the humidity is intense here, and it can ruin clothes and socks quickly. In order to avoid running out of socks, bring every pair that you own (or as many as possible).
  9. Comfortable walking shoes: unfortunately, I only brought one pair of comfortable walking shoes, and the cobblestone streets are starting to take a toll on them. I wish that I had packed another pair of walking shoes.
  10. Specific brands of toothpaste, deodorant, and soap: I am strangely particular about the products that I like use, so it was a good idea to pack my favorite brands from home. This isn’t necessary for everyone though.

Five Things that Needlessly Weighed Down My Suitcases:

  1. Uncomfortable walking shoes: I do not know why in the world I packed two pairs of dress shoes, extra flip flops, and the worst boots I owned. I haven’t worn any of these shoes yet, and I’m sending all of them back with Tyler when he leaves in November. If you can’t walk five miles in the shoes that you are considering packing, don’t bring them.
  2. Books: I slept for the majority of my eighteen hour flight, but I optimistically thought that I would spent this time reading several books on mythology and Roman politics. This was a bad idea and a waste of space. Now I have to bring home my old books with new textbooks.
  3. Extra Phone Chargers: I cannot justify having brought eight phone chargers on this trip. I could have a different charger in each room, place two in my bags, and still have extra phone chargers. My worst nightmare is forgetting to pack a phone charger, but I think that I overcompensated.
  4. Ridiculous Clothes: when I was packing frantically at 3:00 AM, every item of clothing seemed so necessary. “But what if I get invited to a formal cocktail party? I better bring two of those dresses that I’ve never worn! Six identical sweaters! Yeah, why not?” Now that I’m in Rome, all of this extra apparel is gathering dust in the closet, just like it did in my closet at home.
  5. Straws, scissors, and miscellanea: For some reason I assumed that there wouldn’t be plastic straws in Italy. I packed so many random items that were easily found in any Italian supermarket. Of course all of these items are useful, but they are not necessary to bring with you from home.

Three Things I Have Learned about Rome:

  1. The weather here ranges from violent rain to smoldering heat. Since I’m from San Diego, I only possessed the wardrobe to deal with hot weather. Now that it’s raining at least once a week, I have realized that I am not prepared to deal with rain. Recently I had to buy a new waterproof coat, rain boots, and other winter apparel that will become completely useless when I return to my eternally sunny hometown. I also wish I knew how to use an umbrella without hurting innocent people around me. I am embarrassingly awful at handling an umbrella in strong winds.
  2. Walking everywhere simply is not possible, but using public transportation can also be difficult. Today I waited twenty minutes for a tram because I was feeling a little bit lazy. When it finally arrived it was completely packed full of people. Everyone else pushed ahead of me and squeezed into the crowded tram while I stood on the curb with a dumbfounded expression as the tram pulled away without me. I decided to walk to my destination, which took about fifteen minutes. Moral of the story: walk whenever it’s possible and enjoy the free exercise on the streets of Rome.
  3. There are so many things to see in this city that it is overwhelming at times. I want to visit every museum, church, park, and garden that Rome has to offer. I have learned that the best way to see as many things as possible is to spontaneously pop into places that look interesting. Every time I pass anything familiar or new, I take a moment to explore. This strategy has allowed me to see plenty of churches, ruins, and museums that I would have walked past otherwise. Spontaneity and a willingness to explore are two useful characteristics to possess while studying abroad.

Living in Rome has been an exciting, challenging, and surprising experience. I wish that I could travel back in time to August and give some of these tips to myself as I threw everything into my suitcases. I hope that this advice might be helpful to other students who are thinking about studying abroad in Rome. I also hope that I can finally return to writing about Roman history in my upcoming blog posts. Maybe this week will be the last time that I am wildly derailed by a change of plans! Next Friday I’ll be in Pompeii, and I promise to share some amazing photos from my site visit and interesting stories about the importance of this Roman town. Thanks for reading! Arrivederci!

Wandering Around Rome

The second week of this semester has come and gone, and I am amazed by how quickly my time here is passing. In order to ensure that I am getting the most out of my study abroad experience, I have been trying to balance my studies and schoolwork with exploration and adventures. To be honest, it’s been hard for me to study, travel, and take care of myself during this trip, but I think that I am finally figuring it out. I’m reading history textbooks on the elliptical, mentally conjugating Latin verbs as I walk to school, and practicing my Italian conversation skills whenever the opportunity arises. I’m still finding enough time to sleep, of course, because sleep will always be one of my main priorities.

Every day I am seeing more of this gigantic city through a combination of careful planning and spontaneous decisions. It seems that no matter how well I plan our weekend adventures, Tyler and I always end up wandering around and stumbling upon sites that make my original plans seem boring in comparison. Today we were going to visit the Castel Sant’Angelo because admission is free on the first Sunday of the month (but also because I love the concept of emperors building elaborate mausoleums to commemorate their narcissistic glory). Prioritizing sleep over exploration, we woke up late and arrived around 2:00 to see an astonishingly long line wrapped around the Castel Sant’Angelo.

The Castel Sant'Angelo. I will definitely be returning soon to explore its interior and visit the museum.
The Castel Sant’Angelo, completed in 139 AD. I definitely plan on returning soon to explore the museum and interior.

We decided to forget about our plans (sorry, Hadrian, maybe next time), and instead we followed the flocks of tourists heading toward Vatican City. As we took a few panoramic photos and stopped to admire the beauty of St. Peter’s, I thought to myself, “Maybe I should stop making plans and embrace the idea of wandering around aimlessly every weekend.” Today is the first Sunday of October, and I have more than two months remaining in the Eternal City. I have realized that whenever I allow myself to get lost in the confusing cluster of cobblestone streets it becomes possible to discover so much more than whenever I have effectively followed the directions.

A panoramic view of St. Peter's Basilica. Of course there aren't two obelisks, but that's the side effect of taking panoramic photos.
A panoramic view of St. Peter’s Basilica. The double obelisks are a side effect of the panoramic photo.
Enjoying Vatican City together. This is the first time we asked someone to take a photo of us. After a full month this is our first picture together that isn't a selfie.
Enjoying our time wandering around Vatican City! Surprisingly, this is the first time we asked someone else to take a photo of us. After several months here this is our first picture together that isn’t a selfie.

Before I left, one of my best friends recommended “getting lost” as often as possible while living in Rome, and this seemed like such a terrifying thought at the time. Why would I ever want to get lost on purpose? We live in the era of GPS technology and Google Maps! But as usual, he was right, and I’m starting to appreciate the moments when I have no idea where I am.

Weaving through the colorful tour groups with their matching attire and drowning in the sea of selfie sticks, I enjoyed some moments of clarity today. The chaotic crowds of Rome are both amusing and fantastic. All of us have our noses stuck in a map, but none of us seem to know where we are going. We are speaking countless languages, staring at the sky, and trying to avoid oncoming traffic. I could have spent today in a museum that I had already researched, but instead I spent today stumbling upon sites that I don’t quite understand. Although I wished to publish a blog post about the historical context of Hadrian’s mausoleum, all I have to write about today is my ongoing realization that Rome is immense, bountiful, and full of wonderful things to see.

On our way back home to Trastevere we walked through the Piazza Navona, continued to wander until we passed a few ancient monuments that I couldn’t identify, and eventually we found ourselves sitting at the Circus Maximus watching dog walkers. As we strolled down a familiar street on our way to the Circus Maximus, we saw some crowds entering a church and decided to follow them. Once we entered the church we were astonished by the elaborate ornamentation and artwork embellishing its interior. We spent a while admiring the Baroque art throughout this beautiful church, the Santa Maria in Vallicella, also called the Chiesa Nuova. Once again, spontaneous decisions and cancelled plans lead us to discover the most amazing treasures.

This panoramic picture didn't work very well, and it certainly doesn't show how beautiful the Chiesa Nuova truly is.
This panoramic picture didn’t work out very well, and it certainly doesn’t depict how magnificent the Chiesa Nuova truly is.
I will always find art on the ceilings to be absolutely amazing. Most of my time here was spent gazing up at the breathtaking artwork.
I have always thought that ceiling paintings are incredible. Most of my time here was spent gazing up at the spectacular artwork on the roof.
Baroque artwork in this breathtaking church. I am so happy that we stumbled upon this place today.
More beautiful Baroque artwork in the Chiesa Nuova. I am so grateful that we spent some time here today.
The art, the marble, the altars, the columns...the grandeur of this place took my breath away.
The art, the marble, the altars, the Latin inscriptions, the columns…the grandeur of this church took my breath away.

Tomorrow is the first site visit for my Ancient Roman Civilization course, and I’m so excited to explore the ancient ruins with my classmates and professor. On that note, it’s time for me to get some sleep and rest my feet after another long day of walking around Rome. Thanks for reading, ci vediamo!