Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekly Interlude 2: Rome-ing About

Baroque Gone Wild at St. Ignazio's
Ten days in Italy is not enough. My aunt and I divided our time into three cities: Rome (4 days), Florence (3 days), and Bologna (2 days), which was perfect for this vacation but left out some other incredible places. I guess that means we'll have to go back sometime...!

At the risk of making one giant list, let me share some highlights of the trip:

Rome is a beautiful city, a stunning combination of ancient and modern. Day 1 was our "Ancient Day," where we activated our Roma passes (worth every penny!) and skipped the lines to get into the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. I took nearly 400 pictures; my camera battery was flashing red by the time we ate dinner in Trastevere. The next day, we toured the Vatican and then ambitiously headed to the Museo Borghese to see Bernini's Apollo e Daphne sculpture.

This sculpture turned out to be the most incredible piece of art I've ever seen. It depicts Apollo running after Daphne right at the moment she begins to turn into a tree. As you walk around the sculpture, you can see Daphne's toes stretching into roots, her hair twisting back into leaves, and her fingertips sprouting branches. Apollo grasps a hand around her waist, which has already begun to turn into bark, as his toga billows out behind him. It was SO worth waiting in the long, hot line (and dealing with the total lack of customer service) to see this sculpture. Other rooms in the Borghese house Bernini's Rape of Persephone sculpture and his statue of David.
Super-touristy picture on the Spanish Steps

If you ever go to Rome, beware the crazy drivers. Lanes and stop signs are optional, apparently, which requires all the drivers to have superlative dodging skills. On the taxi ride back to Fiumicino airport, we ended up going 96mph on the highway.

We received a warm welcome in Florence from Monti, the concierge at Hotel Alessandra, who offset the bleak weather. Yet Florence is a city for shoppers, so we weren't discouraged by a little rain. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio, and you pass stalls and stalls of jewelry, gloves, shoes, art, leather products, EVERYTHING. I'm proud to say I controlled myself from buying a pair of 160 euro shoes (which felt like butter on my feet, but whatever). Instead, I haggled (sort of) for a purse at San Lorenzo market and followed my aunt into about every single church in the city. Using my FirenzeCard, I jumped the line to climb the Duomo, which was both awesome and terrifying. (My aunt refused to join me.) And of course, we saw Michelangelo's statue of David, which I found much more impressive in person than in pictures. I was expecting him to look a little weak compared to Bernini's David, but the 17-foot statue exudes calm power.

View from the Duomo

The next day, we hopped a train to Bologna, where we stayed at a hotel right in the middle of the Quadrilateral, the market neighborhood. After the constant trekking around, we could barely function in Bologna. So what did we do? We plunked ourselves down at Fleur du Vin, a French wine bar/cafe, and drank rosé and ate cheese and bread.

The next day proved to be one of the highlights of our trip, and if you ever visit Bologna, DO THIS: we took a cooking class!! Perfect for the food capital of Italy. Carlo, our guide and chef, took us around the Quadrilateral, introducing us to his friends and favorite sellers and buying fresh ingredients for our day. We made tagliatelle and ricotta/parmesan/spinach stuffed tortelloni by hand (no crank or machine involved) and authentic Bolognese sauce. I even tried prosciutto and mortadella, even though I dislike ham, bacon, and most deli meats. Not bad! The prosciutto wasn't overly salty, and I didn't feel like I was eating skin (always a plus). While my aunt and I hand-rolled the tortelloni and cut the tagliatelle, Carlo made tirimisu, which is much creamier and less cake-y in Italy than in the US. To make a long story short, I stuffed myself silly and didn't regret a moment of it. :)
Fruit at the Quadrilateral Market

Now I'm back in Vienna, where I'm trying to keep myself busy. Going from people and activity 24/7 for so long to living alone feels strange. I suppose this is when I'm supposed to practice and explore and make new friends. I'll keep you posted on how that goes... :)


  1. What an adventure!! I recommend Venice if you get back to Italia in the near future; Venice was definitely my favorite place in Italy.

    I'm quite jealous of you living in Europe again, and will absolutely be living vicariously via your blog. Good luck with your new job!! :)

    1. Thanks for the luck, Caitlin! I've heard mixed reviews about Venice, so we decided to leave it out since we had so little time. Good to know for next time, though! :)

    2. It's sooooooooo pretty. Super easy to get lost in, though. :P

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.