Redesign & Updates

With all the technical issues on my site, I decided to wipe my previous theme and start afresh with this new one, hoping it brings me better luck.

That’s not the only new thing I’ve been up to as well. I am now writing for another website, called The Outcask. The site was started by a good friend of mine, as a re-launch of a magazine she ran a few years ago. So, look out for my posts about craft beer and the craft beer industry! As of this entry, I already have 2 posts on the site.

Also, I’ve been having a ton of fun on the app Periscope. It’s a live broadcast kind of app, and I hope to take it on the road and do little travel pieces. Some of my favorite Periscopers are an archaeologist in Rome and a historian in Paris.

I’ve also been reflecting on my time in Italy last year. I have the Timehop app on my phone so it reminds me daily what I was doing via my social media posts a year, two years three years, etc. ago. Last year around this time I was soaking up the last few days of my trip on the beautiful island of Ponza.

That’s now for updates, and I’ll spruce up my Featured Publications page as long as it doesn’t crash on me!

See you later…

It is often mentioned that goodbyes are permanent, which is why I chose to entitle what is to be the last installment of me blogging about my Italian travels with the phrase ‘see you later.’

When I first arrived in Italy, the stalks of corn were just below my knees, now my head is tilted back just to see the tops.

When I first arrived in Italy it was an American holiday, Memorial Day, and I return on the eve of another, Independence Day.

I have been shown a piece of Italy that is often looked over in the travel books and in the account of passerby’s. The house that my father grew up in still stands, but only as a shell of the home it used to be. The island where my mother’s family hailed from enchanted my mind.

What had started out as a semi-spontaenous trip to Italy, with plans to explore the alternative life of organic farming under WWOOF, took a turn, and instead I learned what it is like to live day-in and day-out in the suburbs of Italy. There’s hard work to be done but it was always rewarded with spending time with the people who matter in life, eating and drinking delicious foods, and trading stories and ideas into the late nights.

I did things that I do back at home, like bowling and billiards, but also did things I would have never done back in the States such as riding on a scooter and mixing my beer with Coke.

Moments of reflection each day were spent with a fresh cup of hot espresso in hand.

I saw a nation propelled with excitement for the World Cup, and witnessed their devastation with the failure to advance out of group. I made friends with people I could only hold small conversations with. I did and saw so many things that it causes my heart to ache just thinking that it will be a long time before I get to feel the same way again.

Today we visited the Abbey at Monte Cassino. It was a very fitting place to visit on my last day.The abbey has a long history, but in the more recent span of its life it is known for a large World War II battle that took place there.

It was a 20-mile drive which gave me plenty of time to stare out the window and think about the ‘last time.’ With every chapter marked by some big change, usually the end of a year or the time I moved back home from college, I think about the ‘last time,’ I do or see something special or unique. The things I was thinking about had me crying again. It’s the littlest things too, like going to the Conad supermarket or admiring the neatly placed bales of hay on a hillside…

The abbey sits atop a mountain, and the road there had plenty of hairpin turns and overlooking cliffs. But the ride was worth it with the view at top.

We got there a bit late, about a half hour before they close the abbey during the week so we didn’t see everything. What I did see was beautiful. The courtyards were mostly white stone accented with a green garden. There were a few doves perched on the rafters. After our mini-tour of the abbey we went to the nearby Polish cemetery. As mentioned before, there was a big WWII battle here, which you can read all about on the Wikipedia page.

And so, tomorrow I believe before dawn for the airport. Through the next couple of weeks I’ll be editing my blog posts about my trip and probably adding a few posts reminiscing about my time here.

The Abbey
The Abbey
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Beautiful vista
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The Polish Cemetery

Ponza Escape

I have spent my whole life looking at pictures hung up on walls or pasted into photo albums of the Isola di Ponza, the small volcano-created island located about 20 miles off the coast between Rome and Naples.

I have spent my whole life hearing stories of its beaches and how soothing its waters are.

And I finally got my chance to live inside the pictures and the stories. And now I have my own to share.

We woke up at 6 a.m. and were on the road by 7. Some traffic set us back and after we found parking, we sped-walked to the docks in Terra Cina (a city close to Sperlonga and Napoli). We quickly purchased our tickets for the ferry and scrambled to make it on board on time. The ferry undocked only five minutes later.

The ride was close to an hour long. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on what today would mean for me. I kept recalling a blog post I read the night before by my favorite musician Gerard Way. It’s entitled ‘The Happy-Sads’, and in it he discusses how his depression gave him a view on life that while he could experience happy occurrences, he still felt sad. I was happy because I had been dreaming about this day for so long, but I felt the sadness too. I was nervous that the island wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. I was nervous that after seeing the island, would I still see my beloved Italy in the enchanting mysterious way I have always seen it? And, could I ever feel this happy again once I returned to New York? Italy has been completely amazing and I fear my life back at home will pale in comparison.

Overwhelmed with these thoughts I teared up a bit and I was very grateful to already have my sunglasses on.

I didn’t have much of a view from the windows of the ferry to see the island before we arrived. I had seen the neighboring uninhabited small islands, but not the lovely spread of Ponza. When I stepped down the plank, it felt like I had to twirl around to take in everything. On my right side were docks and a swimming area, on my left there were bright pastel-colored buildings and homes slowly ascending a hillside, and in front of me was a little bustling street filled with people and taxis and bursting with life.

I could have spent all day standing there and watching the world revolve around me, but my feet knew to follow my cousins along the street until we came about a little shop next to a pedestrian tunnel. There the four of us rented two scooters to easily move about the island. I have never been on a scooter before and I must have looked a little silly clutching the sidebars so tightly, but, my goodness were they so much fun.

We sped up an down the the curvy hilly streets with ease and finally stopped at a set of stairs. We parked the scooters at the side of the rode and then ventured down these stairs. Marked every so often in paint was the word ‘Piscine’ accompanied by an arrow. ‘Piscine’ means ‘pools’ in English, and we followed the arrows to Le Forna. It was quite a walk down all these steps, but it offered some fantastic views of the ocean and some glimpses into the lush wildlife and little lizards of the island.

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Le Forna is a region of the island and this beach is just one of them in the area.  We placed our towels on rocks, changed to our bathing suits, soaked up a little sun before taking a dive into the incredibly beautiful water. Is the water blue, or is the water green? I have no idea how to respond to that. But it’s clear and clean and the water felt unlike any other ocean I’ve dipped it. It was smooth and the water didn’t weigh you down.

The Grotto and caves.
The Grotto and caves.

We swam right by a grotto and some caves, but I didn’t go too close to them. In the water you could see little fish hanging about in schools and small crabs scuttling about the rocks. It looked so peaceful under the water.

We spent a few hours at this beach sun-bathing, taking short swims, and even ate our pre-packaged lunches.

My cousins asked what I so far thought about Ponza and I stammered in my rugged Italian that I didn’t have the words in either Italian or English to describe its beauty.

A little after midday we packed up our sets, walked up the insane amount of steps, and jumped on the scooters again. We drove to another beach, I believed called Achilles and Lucia. This beach was very rocky and rough but we did manage to find a spot to lay our towels down, although we were a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t go in the water here because there were sea urchins on the rocks and they were difficult to see so I didn’t want to accidentally step on one or brush up on one. We stayed here for about an hour and a half, enjoyed some fruit and then finally returned to our scooters once more.

Achille e Lucia
Achille e Lucia

After we left this beach we took our time driving and stopped intermittently to take pictures of the scenery. The flora and fauna of the island juxtaposed with the multi-colored ocean was unlike anything. Simply divine.

We returned to the port area, brought back our scooters and bought some gelato at a nearby gelateria. I had nocciola and frutta di bosco. A little weird considering nocciola is essentially Nutella and frutta di bosco is mixed fruits but it was delicious. The nocciola flavor was exceptionally savory. We didn’t have any time to look at the other shops before boarding the ferry and I was a little miffed I couldn’t buy any presents for anyone, but I guess my pictures will have to serve as the only tangible souvenirs from the island.

One day is not enough to experience the 2-mile Ponza. But on the other hand, I don’t believe a whole lifetime would fulfill it either. I made a mental note to scold my family later for ever leaving a place like this. I will be back one day Ponza, the island can be sure of it.

No I did not drive.
No I did not drive.
The Island of Ponza as we left.
The Island of Ponza as we departed.

The Path Less Traveled in Roma

In the Garden of the Orange Trees
In the Garden of the Orange Trees

I wonder what it is about Rome that has me so mesmerized. Something inside me surges when I’m in Rome, and when I leave the Eternal City I am left feeling very barren.

Today my cousin and I took a day trip to Rome. We woke up at 7, which was a bit difficult to do since I was out after midnight playing billiards. We did manage to leave the house before 8, and drove to the train station in Frosinone. She had some business to attend to in the morning, but after that we spent the rest of the day free to explore Roma.

What’s interesting about this trip is that I got a chance to see lesser-known attractions in the city. We started at Circo Massimo, popping out from the subway station right next to it. After getting my fill of the ancient remains of the chariot-racing stadium, we had breakfast across the street. I had a perfect cappuccino and a croissant with Nutella filling. You know you’re jealous.

We visited St. Peter’s square, La Passeggiata del Gianicola, Parco Savello (Garden of the Orange Trees), San Bonifacio e Alessio, La Basilica di San Paolo Fuori Le Mure.

Across the street from San Bonifacio e Alessio there is a green door and you will mostly likely see a short line standing in front of it. The person at the front of the line is stooped over with their head leaning against the door, and maybe a hand or two cupping around their eyes. There is a small hole in the door, and when you look through it the first thing you’ll notice is something bright at the end of your vision. Surrounded by a garden of bushes, and far off into the view is the perfectly centered dome of Saint Peter’s. It’s no wonder why Rome is so well-suited for its modern-day life, it’s because it’s completely embraced its history and preserves it in these little ways. If you’re ever in that area, stop by that big green door and take a peak.

Also to note, one of my favorite things about today was a monument at La Passeggiata del Gianicola. While that area has amazing views of Rome, there is an inscription on the bottom of the monument for Giuseppe Garibaldi in the center that I became fixated on. It simply said ‘Roma o Morte.’ Rome or death. And I get it. I explained to my cousin that one day I want to live in Rome. Not wish to, not maybe, I made sure in my limited Italian to pound down it as a statement. One day I will live in Rome. I don’t think I’m ready to in my life, but I don’t see my future without it.

So, to wrap it up, today was another fantastic day. It was fun criss-crossing the city on the trains, walking around parts of the city that sanitized of tourists. It was nice buying lunch at a supermarket. Today almost felt like the antithesis of a day you’d expect to have in Rome. But for me, it was perfect, I did as the Romans did.

The subway entrance for the Circo Massimo stop.
The subway entrance for the Circo Massimo stop.
Touristing it up.
Touristing it up.
San Paolo
San Paolo

 

Adventure Continues

So I had another lovely weekend after my visit to Napoli. The only downtrodden thing was Italy losing their match against Costa Rica on Saturday. We’ll rebound against Uruguay tomorrow.

After the match, we had dinner, and then I showered. We took in a trip into Sora to see them setting up l’infiorata, which is a traditional festival before Corpus Christi (Corpus Domini). There were people creating street art with flowers and vegetables depicting biblical scenes. There was also a large stage set up in the piazza and they had little kids singing songs and it was really wonderful. I also got to try Italian frozen yogurt. I chose Nutella syrup and strawberries as toppings. Let me tell you how great of a decision that was.

On Sunday we headed back to the charming seaside town of Sperlonga. I bought a bathing suit right on the beach for 14 Euro. Not a bad price at all. The top fits perfect but the bottom is a little small. That’s okay because I like to mix and match my bathing suits anyway.

My time here is beginning to wind down. I feel it. I leave on July 3rd, so I still have plenty of time to soak in the local sights and culture. But, I already feel that sadness seeping into my mind. We were driving back from the beach and I was looking at the mountains against the sunset and I got a bit teary-eyed. These sights have become so precious to me and I know I will miss getting to stare and revel at their beauty. I am envious of this life.

On the 28th, my cousin and I are going to Ponza for three days. The island of Ponza is where my moms side of the family originated from. They all moved to New York in the early 1900’s. I’ve heard varied stories as to why but the one that interests me most is the one where they were targeted by the fascist party and left to avoid capture by Mussolini’s camp. The island of Ponza and the neighboring island Ventotene served as political prisons for opponents of fascism. Mussolini himself was imprisoned on the island for several weeks after he was overthrown in 1943. But that was much after my family had left.

I’m so excited for this trip. I won’t rush through the week though because I know how short my time is running.

 

People assembling the flower art!
People assembling the flower art!
Some finished flower art!
Some finished flower art.
Frozen yogurt with nutella syrup and strawberries
Frozen yogurt with nutella syrup and strawberries!
And here's another picture of Sperlong in case you forgot how gorgeous it was from my post a few weeks back.
And here’s another picture of Sperlonga in case you forgot how gorgeous it was from my post a few weeks back.

Caserta & Napoli

Everyday has been spectacular here in Italy, and yesterday was another day of pure bliss added to that.

We left in the morning to my cousins boyfriends house a few towns away and made our way south to the town of Caserta. I asked what we were doing here and the reply was La Reggia di Caserta. I didn’t know what ‘reggia’ meant at the time, so I quickly resorted to a translator. Reggia means Palace, and this place was nothing shy of elegance, extravagance,   and immense beauty.

As a bit of a history buff I was disappointed I didn’t know about this place prior. However, I am happy to report I am caught up with its historical context and will impart some of my newfound wisdom to you as well. The palace was built in the 1700’s under the oversight of Charles VII of Naples and his architect Nicholas Vanvitelli. This Baroque period palace was never slept in by Charles VII, as he left to abdicate as the King of Spain in 1759. The palace was handed over to his son, Ferdinand IV. In terms of volume, it is the largest palace in the world.

We started our tour at the gardens. It took  a long time on this muggy day to walk all the way to the end but seeing The Fountain of Ceres, The Fountain of the Dolphins, The Fountain of Aelous, The Fountain of Venus and Adonis, and the Fountain of Diana and the Actaeon was well worth it. At the last fountain, the Fountain of Diana and the Actaeon, we enjoyed some ice cream, sat in the shade, and took the bus back to the palace.

We sat to have some lunch in the cafeteria and then made our way over to the Honour Grand Staircase, which is aptly named because it is lined with marble and has a beautiful vaulted ceiling. It surely raises the bar for everything else named ‘grand.’

First we visited the chapel, lined with gold and structurally fortified with grey and pinkish marble. Magnificent. We then ventured to the art gallery, which featured classical paintings from that time and also modern/contemporary art.

After a stroll through the gallery, we set our eyes upon the stunning apartments in La Reggia. Each room toppled the next one. The vaulted ceilings, the smallest detail-laden trinket, each room was magnificent. And there were so many of them!

My personal favorites were:

The Throne Room. One of the largest rooms The Throne Room is open, airy and is tied together with an insane gold vaulted ceiling. It cries opulence. The lack of furniture in the space is also really appealing.

The Honour Grand Staircase. As mentioned before, it elevates you to a whole new place. I don’t know how I didn’t trip on the stairs when I just kept looking up and around.

The Second Antechamber of Joseph Murat. Probably my favorite out of all the rooms, the ruby red wall paint got me, and it had that lovely Victorian-esque design I adore. By the way, who even needs one antechamber? And this guy had at least two.

The Third Room of the Library. Expansive, filled with old books, globes, a telescope, what more could a bibliophile ask for? The dark wood also set itself apart from the rest of the rooms.

I can go on and on about how stunning this place was, but I hope I’ve said enough that if you’re ever in the Napoli area that it is a must-see.

After La Reggia di Caserta we headed to Napoli. We walked around the historic center, the seaside, and gazed at the menacing-look Mount Vesuvius. I still can’t believe I saw a real volcano. Napoli is charming. However, I must say as we were driving through the port looking for a parking lot, the driving there is certifiably insane. It’s like all the rules of driving are out the door. No lanes, scooters zipping in and out, cars turning from the left to make a right. I don’t think I could have gripped the car seat tighter than I did.

We visited Piazza del Plebiscito, I saw the most important bar (cafe) in Italy there. It’s called Gambrinus, and it is where the President of Italy buys the first coffee of the New Year.

After getting our hands on some delicious Neapolitan pastries we took the car back to the old part of town for a few more hours of walking and wandering. We went to the Naples Cathedral where the crypt of San Gennaro is. We visited the famous streets of the nativity and also musical instruments.

Then, at around 6, we headed over to Sorbillo’s and after a ten minute wait I had the best pizza I have ever had in my life. Nothing could seriously top it.

The throne room
The throne room
The second antechamber of Joseph Murat
The second antechamber of Joseph Murat
The third room of the library
The third room of the library
Mt. Vesuvius!
Mt. Vesuvius!

 

Uptick in Antics

Ah, so here I am again skipping days with my posts! We shall begin the catch-up where I left off last time: the World Cup!

We gathered for a big dinner around 10 p.m. on Saturday for the match between England v. Italy. We had pizza, cured meats, vegetables, and plenty of Moretti beer. When we were stuffed, we were joined by more guests where we each took a seat in the living room. We were supposed to watch the game outside, with the projector, but my cousins couldn’t get the audio to work.

It was exhilarating to have people around me so invested in this match. I have always enjoyed the sport, and have been a fan of the Azzurri team ever since I could remember, but it was a special moment for me in that room. I was surrounded by electricity, the intrinsic passion for the team. It was intoxicating. If you watched the match you know that it was a nail-biter. But the Azzurri came out on top for their first 2014 World Cup victory.

The game ended at 2 in the morning here, and although very tired I stayed up until 3, which made for a very sleepy Sunday.

Monday morning my cousin took me to the Abbey in Casamari. Casamari is a neighboring town and the abbey there is almost a thousand years old. It was built in 1035. The church was preparing for some festival this weekend. Gorgeous church, vastly different from the ornate churches that sprinkle Italy’s big cities. I enjoyed seeing it.

After visiting the Abbey, I asked my cousin if we could stop at a bookstore. I am a big Harry Potter fan and the idea occurred to me that it might help me learn Italian faster/better if I read the first book in Italian. I know Harry Potter so well that I could add context to the words and focus on the grammar and technique of the translation. The first bookstore we tried didn’t have the first book, so we went over to neighboring Carnello (the town my dad was born in) and I found the first book there. From there we stopped at the school my aunt teaches at. The school year just finished so the elementary school was being cleaned out. It was so tiny! What an interesting thing to see in a foreign country.

I then spent most of my afternoon translating words from the Harry Potter book. It’s taking longer than i thought because when books are written in Italian they use a special tense, and I’m not too familiar with the rules of the tense. I hope to complete the first chapter and then reread the first chapter fluidly. It’s still enjoyable and that air of whimsy that J.K. Rowling is perfect at seeps through even in the translation.

In the late afternoon we brought the white kitten who I’ve posted plenty of pictures about, to the vet. Another place you wouldn’t find yourself as a tourist going to. There was no receptionist, and the office just had dogs hanging about in corners and whatnot. The wait was quite long. We brought the kitten to the vet because he has a cold. The vet examined him, took his temperature, gave him a shot, and told us to come back on Wednesday for a second shot and check-up on his condition.

Later in the evening we watched the Ghana v. USA game. I was so tired that I decided to get ready for bed 15 minutes before the game finished, so essentially I missed most of the action. At least I kept checking Twitter for the updates. USA won 2-1.

As today is Tuesday, in the morning my cousin and I visited the market again. I bought some souvenirs for my friends and because I’ve accumulated so much change I offered to pay for the ciambella. I still have plenty of change.

After lunch I helped my cousins wrangle the other set of kittens, the smaller ones. I believe they were giving them away.

So that’s it for now. I heard talk that I may be going to Monte Cassino soon, but I am uncertain. Enjoy the pictures as always!

The front of the Abbey
The front of the Abbey
Inside the Abbey
Inside the Abbey
The sky outside of the vet clinic
The sky outside of the vet clinic
Where we got the ciambelle from! You can see one in the left corner.
Where we got the ciambelle from! You can see one in the left corner.

Italy and the World Cup.

I’ve been quiet the past few days because there’s not much to say when you are living a home-life. It’s just been wake-up, breakfast, study my Italian, eat lunch, aid with chores, eat dinner, shower and sleep. It’s much like it is at home for me.

The interesting part of this experience is I’ve learned how Italians lead their lives everyday. The mail here is delivered by vespa. They have several different types of trash to separate to and they bring it to a community dumpster. To use the shopping cart at the supermarket they have to get a key from the information desk to unlock it from the rack. They don’t eat sandwiches but rather wrap cheese around a piece of fresh bread.

I could continue as there are plenty of little tidbits about everyday life. It’s really a gift being here, to learn and to live.

It’s also exciting to be in a country that is so invested in the World Cup. Tonight is the first match for Italy against England. It airs here at midnight. We’ve been watching the matches at the house which has been fun. I enjoy the sport even if I can’t determine all the plays at hand and when exactly something is a foul and such, but it is a beautiful game to watch.

I hope Italy does well tonight, I’ve already got my Italia jersey on!

#ForzaAzzurri!

World Cup team!

Shop Shop Shop!

In Isola del Liri there is an outdoor market every Tuesday, and I finally got the chance to check it out.  This week has been very hot in Italy, ranging from the low to middle 90’s, so while my cousin and I rolled into town via SmartCar with the top down and windows open we were still fanning at our necks. I knew we wouldn’t be held up long at the market due to the excessive heat.

The outdoor market was really nice, mostly clothes and shoes, which is perfect for me. My cousin was looking for shoes to match a dress for a wedding she’s attending. She had no such luck but I turned up with a pretty pair of white floral combat boots for 15 Euro. That’s about $20 in U.S., I believe. I had a very good shopping experience.

Before leaving the market she bought a ciambella. The literal translation is doughnut, but it’s not at all what you would find at Dunkin Donuts. It’s a ring shaped bread seasoned with fennel. The vendor gave us a separate piece to eat on the go and it was warm and delicious. Just how most delicious food is (not all because that would exclude ice cream and other frozen/cold treats!).

We stopped at a shoe store called Max that was very reminiscent of the DSW’s we have in America. She really liked this one pair but it was more than she wanted to spend so the store let her take home one shoe to try on with the dress. After trying it on with the dress when she got got she picked up and paid for the other shoe later in the day with us.

As mentioned early, it’s a very hot week in Italy, so during the day I’m committed to staying indoors and staying cool, which I guess has been coming off as laziness. I’m also slightly under the weather with a stomachache so I’m just trying to keep from it dictating how I feel.

The cool thing about it being so hot is the rain that comes in the afternoon. Around 5 or 6 every day the clouds roll in dark over the mountains, loud thunder shatters the silence and a few minutes later a downpour has us scrambling to take the laundry off the line.

It’s a short downpour, lasting no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. After, the sun is back out, the ground slurps up the water and the vibrant perfumes of all the different flowers fills the air. And there are many flowers so the smell is divine. It’s one of my favorite moments of the day.

Sorry no pictures!