Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

Aside from its historical significance, Rome is without a doubt a social icon and landmark. It has made its way into movie classics such as La Dolce Vita and the memorable Roman Holiday starring the irreverent Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Its monuments have amazed and awestruck us; it has become a part of everyday lingo "all roads lead to Rome", "When in Rome" and the classic "Rome wasn't built in a day". True Rome wasn't build in a day but can is it possible to be seen in a day?

Scholars and educated men and women have discussed this very issue for hundreds of years and have come to the same conclusion...No. But I, my friends, must contradict this statement, in fact I have proved it wrong completely. Sure it is impossible to see every inch of Roma, hit every cafe, enjoy a scoop or two in every Gellateria and pray in every church but for the Roma rookie you can see the hot spots of the Eternal City.

I did this several times during my stay in Roma but I repeated it in the summer of 2007 with my family. Don't get me wrong it was grueling to keep my parents going and my then 14 year old sister away from the shops; but we fought the lines, burning sun and urge to spend and banged out the main sights in 1 day. Wondering how? Well let me give you a brief run through.

Wake up Early!
This is important because most tourists forget that even though they are on vacation, to beat the lines you must wake up early. Unfortunately I suck at this so we didn't leave our hotel until 11 a.m. haha, what can ya do?

Piazza del Popolo
I recommend a very linear approach to start and hit one of the most gorgeous piazzas. You can walk through the Porta del Popolo the northern entrance way on the Aurelian wall that is gorgeous and remarkably still intact. In this piazza you will see the gorgeous fountains and obelisk as well as visit the infamous "Twin Churches" the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. After taking pictures in the piazza where beheadings took place until the mid 1800s walk in between the Twin Churches down the most famous road in Rome...

Via del Corso
Once a road used for chariot races and renovated in the 1700s to the Baroque style you now see, this roughly 1.5 kilometer long street is now filled with shops and cafes. It is a beautiful road to window shop have a bite to eat and see many street artists. Take a short side street to end up at the...

Spanish Steps
This beautiful staircase is very commonly filled with natives and tourists enjoying the gorgeous piazza. Enjoy the ritzy hotels and shops that frankly I could never and will never afford...plain and simple they are expensive and yes that is a real store in Rome. Now slide through some very elegantly old school side streets and all of a sudden see a massive opening where you come upon...

The Trevi Fountain
Probably the most gorgeous (and well hidden) fountains in Rome you will constantly see people tossing coins over their shoulders to ensure they will return to see the fountain again. On a food related note, one of the best Gellaterias is located next to the Trevi Fountain. Now hop back onto Via del Corso (just a side street away) and finish your walk down to Piazza Venezia most famous for...

The Vittoriano
Also known as "Zuppa Inglese", "the wedding cake", "the false teeth" and "the typewriter", the Vittoriano is a contraversial monument in Rome. Inaugurated in 1911, this gigantic building was created to honor Victor Emmanuele II, the first King of unified Italy as well as holds a tomb and an eternal flame for the "Unknown Soldier" a tomb designed to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers whose bodies were never recovered. Many dislike it due the fact that it does not fit with the Medieval feel of the neighborhood, the fact that it is covering a large portion of the ancient Roman Forum and mainly because Benito Mussolini used it as his podium while delivering speeches in WWII. Swing around the Vittoriano to..

The Roman Forum
Much of the forum is excavated including the infamous senate building and monument to Julius Caesar where his remains were buried. This is one of the most amazing places to visit, it has been restored so that you can walk the paths that many great Romans walked and to see inside the Senate building, well it is just remarkable. Now walk down the Sacra Via, where Roman armies would march after a victory at war down to the man, the myth, the legend...

The Colosseum!
Not much needs to be said about this infamous monument. It was the focus point of Rome for centuries and still is today. Once a place where gladiators fought and sadly where Christians were persecuted, it is now a historical "must see" and is very rarely used as a venue for concerts. Commonly surrounded by tourists and men in Gladiator costumes for you to take pictures with, it has not lost is power because every time I went to see it I was taken aback; it truly is amazing. When the Colosseum fell and Christianity took over Rome much of the travertine that coated the exterior was used to build churches all over Rome, a big F U to the past.

So there it is Rome in one long exhausting day and technically The Vatican is it's own country so it isn't part of Rome haha. And sure you did not see everything and there is still much more you can see but hey, that's why you tossed the coin into the Trevi Fountain right?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

5 Things You Didn't Know About Rome

So I was searching all over the place for stuff to post and I came across an article on AskMen.com that I thought was really interesting/funny/weird and I of course wanted to share it...so here are 5 things you didn't know about Rome.

1- In Rome, it was considered decadent to vomit between meals
Did the Romans really make themselves vomit between meals so they could eat more? The short answer: yup. However, it was considered decadent. The Roman philosopher Seneca condemned the practice, recalling that at one feast “while we were reclining at a banquet, one slave wipes up the spittle, as another, beneath the table, collects the leavings of the drunks.” The Roman orator, Cicero, attacked Julius Caesar for expressing “a desire to vomit after dinner.” However, the notion that Romans had a dedicated room for this purpose, a vomitorium, is a myth. There were, in fact, structures called "vomitoria," but they were simply lobbies where the audience exited a theater (the words "vomit" and "vomitorium" are derived from a Latin verb meaning “to disgorge”).

2- Rome was the first civilization to feature central heating systems
During the first century CE (Classical Era), some of the classier homes in Rome were built with terracotta tubes embedded in the walls. The tubes carried warm air from the fires in the basement -- the first central heating systems. Better yet, bathing areas were supplied with hot and cold running water so bathers could move back and forth between three baths according to preference: the caldarium (hot), frigidarium (cold) and tepidarium (warm). The villas of the wealthy often had private baths (attended by slaves -- i.e., the creepy scene with Tony Curtis in Spartacus). However, bathing could be a social event, a sort of combination party and business meeting, which is why you also see Roman aristocrats lounging around naked in the baths in Spartacus.

3- Caligula threatened to make his horse consul
The Roman emperor Gaius Caesar Germanicus was nicknamed “Little Boots” because he was brought up in army camps and sometimes dressed as a miniature soldier. The nickname stuck, and the world remembers him by its Latin version: Caligula. As a young boy, the soldiers were so fond of him that he ended a mutiny just by showing his face. Despite the adorable nickname and popular acclaim, Caligula turned out to be a crazy S.O.B., and not in a good way: According to Suetonius, “He was rearing a viper for the Roman people.” Among Caligula’s more interesting actions -- he threatened to make his horse, Incitatus, consul and gave the animal “a house, a troop of slaves and furniture, for the more elegant entertainment of the guests invited in his name.”

Caligula also announced that he had metamorphosed into Jove, the chief god. He declared war on Neptune, sending his soldiers to attack the sea with swords and catapults, and he “lived in habitual incest with all his sisters.” Later, “at one of his more sumptuous banquets he suddenly burst into a fit of laughter, and when the consuls, who were reclining next to him, politely inquired at what he was laughing, [Caligula] replied: ‘Isn’t it funny? At a single nod of mine both of you could have your throats cut on the spot.’” Apparently, it wasn’t that funny: Various government officials stabbed Caligula to death at the age of 29.

4- Roman husbands kissed their wives to make sure they weren't drunk
Roman husbands kissed their wives on the mouth at the end of the day, but their motives were not at all romantic -- they were checking their spouses’ breath to see if they had been sitting around drinking wine all day. Not that the men could throw stones as far as fidelity was concerned -- the orator, Cicero, once attacked Julius Caesar with the remark that he was “every woman’s husband and every man’s wife.”

5- The city of Rome has a belly button
In love with the idea of order and tidiness, the emperor Augustus had a “Golden Milestone” constructed in the city of Rome on which were listed the distances to all the major cities in the empire. The emperor Constantine later referred to this as the Umbilicus Urbis Romae -- or the “navel of Rome.” It was also the origin of the saying “all roads lead to Rome.” Just how many roads were there? A whole lot: The Romans built over 54,000 miles of roads around the Mediterranean basin. For comparison, as of 2004, the U.S. Interstate Highway System included about 47,000 miles of paved roadway.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Home Away From Home

So I have been yelled at by several people MANY times that I need to post something again and yes I have been slacking and showed some bum like characteristics but here we go.... For those of you that were wondering what an apartment in Roma looks like or said to yourself "Hey! Where did JP eat, sleep and get down?" well this is for you. I took a video my first week in to give my parents a tour of my apartment.

With last week being my 2 year anniversary of leaving for Roma (wow time flies) I got a bit nostalgic and fell upon this forgotten video. So take a look and be jealous because despite what others said...we had the best apartment in Roma.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Buon Natale!

My personal favorite....now my co-workers Jeremy and Nic's most hated...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Natale nel Vaticano

Seeing as how it is that time of the year, I thought I would share with you all a small article I read about the Christmas tree in Piazza di San Pietro in Vatican City:

"Vatican's Christmas tree lit

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican's tallest Christmas tree is twinkling in St. Peter's Square. The Vatican says the 109-foot (33-meter) red spruce from Austria's Piesting Valley is the tallest since Pope John Paul II started the tradition of setting up a tree in the square in 1982. Hundreds of pilgrims from Austria sang carols in the pouring rain Saturday as the tree was officially unveiled.

It is decorated with 2,000 gold and silver balls, white lights and a shining star. It stands next to a larger-than-life-sized Nativity scene which will be unveiled Christmas Eve. Pope Benedict XVI met with the Austrian pilgrims Friday to thank them for the tree, saying it would give him joy to see it from his apartment window."

I also found an article that I found to be really interesting and cool. The Vatican will be recycling their tree this year and making wooden toys out of it to donate to children. I wonder what they do with the one in Rockefeller Center?

"Big Vatican Christmas tree to be recycled into toys

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The largest Christmas tree ever to be placed in St Peter's Square in Rome was lit on Saturday and Vatican officials said its wood will be recycled to make toys for needy children.
The 33-meter-high tree, which came from the forests of southern Austria, was lit at an afternoon ceremony as rain that has brought the nearby Tiber River to one of its highest levels in decades started again after a one-day break. The Vatican said all the wood from the 120-year-old tree will be recycled to make toys for needy children and garden furniture such as benches for schools.

The decision to recycle the wood from the tree was the Vatican's latest effort to go green. Last month it activated a large system of solar panels on the roof of its audience hall and announced an ambitious plan that could one day make it an alternative energy exporter. "

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Next Stop...Sorrento

Ok so every now and then you need a little vacation...a side trip. A place that exudes old school Italy and is (in my opinion) one of the most beautiful places in the world is...well if you read the title this is no shocker...Sorrento.
Below are images from my time spent there. The food is fresh, the seafood was amazing, the shopping is fabulous...yea I said fabulous...and the atmosphere is so unbelievably relaxed.

I bought some clothes and the best gifts for people in Sorrento and it is very affordable, the key however, haggle haggle haggle!!! For you shoe lovers out there (I am speaking mainly to the women) there are a few tiny (almost missable) stores where you can get shoes CUSTOM MADE and they are inexpensive too. This was recommended by my dear friend Elizabeth Batman Superfly Praino who purchased these shoes and loves them.

Here are some images I took throughout the trip.

The lemons were the size of my head!

The places to go out were really trendy...all while and the floor and bar was all lit up....unfortunately this was the only picture I was coherent enough to take.

We ate fresh seafood on the water...literally this place was on top of the water, gorgeous place and amazing food....Oh yea I rolled deep overseas.

I was told I had to put this picture of the romantic scenery...this was on the balcony outside my hotel room...it was gorgeous...so was my crazy canadian hahaha

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Taste of Roma

Ok so let's be honest, you go to Italy for the food. Yea you go for the culture, the history and the excitement but if the food was crap none of that would matter. During my time there I ate at many MANY places but one place that I went to nearly everyday was a pizzeria just outside of American University of Rome (the school I attended while in Roma) called Pizzeria da Simone.

This is one of the typical "fast food" pizzerias. Here you go in and tell them how much pizza you want in measurement not slices. It is then weighed and price is according to weight, they then fold it and you eat it like a sandwich.

It is unbelievably good, the pizza is so fresh and crunchy (a plus in my book) and rather inexpensive. It is a lot better than American pizzerias because if you only have a buck (or a euro rather) you can still get something to eat. Also it takes about 30 seconds from walking in to paying, to get your pizza.

They also have a lot of other great choices besides pizza. Such as lasagna, gnocchi, stuffed tomatoes, potatoes with broccoli rabe and my personal favorite Suppli (soup-lee) which are fries rice balls with tomato sauce and center filling of mozzarella cheese. Seen in the picture below.

FYI...Yes that is a tray of 20 some odd Suppli that my buddy bought to bring back to America with him and YES they let him bring it on the plane. Unfortunately, as soon as they left Italy airspace they never tasted the same again.

If anyone wants recipes or recommendations on where to get the closest version...let me know.

OK I am going to go eat now....God I miss Roma.