Guarracino '18

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The semester is ending and the winter season is ending. As the world winds down for Christmas and we students wind up for finals, a mental pause was needed. To this end, I attended a school-run pilgrimage to the city of Assisi, the home and resting place of Saints Francis and Clare.

Now I would like to stress that this was a pilgrimage trip. The monks in the churches were very strict concerning the “no photos” rule. As such, I only snapped three pictures of the interior of the churches I visited. Specifically, two of the Lower Basilica of Saint Francis…

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… which was awash in beautifully colored frescoes and absolutely stunning…

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… and one picture of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, and the little Porziuncula within, which was the actual chapel of Saint Francis. Beyond this, all I can provide picture wise are exteriors of churches visited and pictures of the city and countryside.

What a city Assisi is. Almost mythically, it seems to rises out the mountain, built of the same stones as the mountain itself.

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See the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is a beige stone monolith. Note too the Christmas tree beside, in the beginnings of decoration. It was Saint Francis who invented the Nativity set, and as such the Franciscans take Christmas very seriously. I was unable to acquire a good picture the life sized presepe the monks were setting up further in the city, but believe me when I say that the tradition is well alive.

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The Basilica of Saint Clare is in the heart of the city, overlooking a beautiful countryside.

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The church itself is in a well used piazza, with stores along the roads and market stalls not far off. It was quite a comparison to the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is set off to the side of the city and walled off.

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The cathedral of the city, devoted to San Rufino, which you could tell the city was built around. Though humblest of the holy sites visited, it exists within a web of streets, stairs, alleys, and shops. It, by far, felt the most lived in.

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The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, the mother church of the Franciscans and the namesake of Los Angeles, is quite a glorious sight. Not unlike the Vatican, security with metal detectors and men with guns guard the church and the Porziuncula within. Here is the museum, the monastic, store, and all the actual bits of infrastructure of the international brotherhood that is the Franciscan Order.

As I said, this was very much a pilgrimage trip. Mass and vespers, prayers and psalms were offered in every holy place visited and on the bus ride to the city. We dipped into secluded side chapels that were usually locked off to the public. I saw the grave of Saint Francis and the body of Saint Clare. After being moved spiritually by Assisi and the stories of the saints who lived there, I can only wonder at what it must have felt like to journey here centuries ago. I’m just a spoiled brat who took a bus northward from Rome, yet I can see easily why humble pilgrims of the middle ages would come by foot to bask in the holiness and to feel saved.

And speaking of humble people journeying far, Christmas is fast approaching. My final exams are next week, so do not expect too much from me blog wise. I will, however, be here in Italy for Christmas, so I’ll try to snap some pictures and capture some anecdotes from an Italian Advent.

Indulge me while I enjoy the season a bit. I wrote this blog listening to Silent Night. Excitement builds.

In the weekend before Thanksgiving, I found myself returning to the region of Umbria to visit the city of Orvieto. Indeed, Umbria may be my favorite region north of Rome and, truly Italy’s New Hampshire, her mountains and small towns offer breathtaking views.

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The funicular from the train station to the town proper drops you off at the top of the local castle. I’ll say that again: the local castle. I love the fact that not only is there such a thing, but that today it’s just another part of the town’s infrastructure. But the castle isn’t much compared to the twisty, turny streets of Orvieto.

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The tree lined, cobblestone roads are wonderful, and give the town an intimate feeling. They twist around the town until they empty out at the local cathedral.

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Orvieto’s cathedral has one of the most beautiful facades of the middle ages. A true Living Gospel, it’s painted with frescoes from the Bible, and is alive in color.

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The stonework on the inside is also breathtaking. I love the different colored stoned that make up the columns and walls.  It’s a bit stark, but this just makes the structure look grander inside.

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The altar is also a vibrant explosion of color. I love these medieval altars and side chapels; the reds and oranges are warm and welcoming, and truly put the soul into a sort of ease and relaxation.

I will say this though about the Orvieto cathedral; it was the first cathedral that made be pay to enter. That doesn’t jive well with me. I know it is for the upkeep and restoration, but I hate the idea of paying to enter a church. What if I was a pilgrim? Would they turn me away? Shame.

Rant over, now we appreciate the local wildlife.

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In America, the boars are descended from pigs that went wild. In Europe, the pigs are descended from boars that calmed down. As such, the famous boars of Orvieto are the peak of game meat.

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Cinghiale alla cacciatora – boar cacciatore – is a wonderful local dish. See that knife on the side? Never used it. The pork pulled apart with a fork and was fantastically tender.

All in all a great trip northward. We, the group that is, took a picture on one of those older film cameras, and I took a trendy, hipstery picture of the picture.

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I’m the one on the far right in the red flannel.

After the trip, a few of us decided to stop by the Vatican. It was the day before Christ the King, and so it was also the last day of the Jubilee. The square was packed in pilgrims all trying to get a last-minute moment inside the Cathedral.

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So ends my jaunt in Orvieto. Until next time, and there will be a next time.

I decided to do something rather out of character last weekend. On a whim I made quick arrangements and bought a round trip ticket to one of the few cities outside of Italy that are on my bucket-list. I went to Dublin

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What an invigorating, interesting, and in some ways strange journey.

It began with a bang; taking the wrong bus, I ended up on the side of the highway, technically at Ciampino airport, but a 20 minute run to the terminal with only 40 minutes before the gate closed. After a very stressful jog in which I was literally yelling Ave Marias to get me through the run (I do hope that the security got me on tape, as that would probably have given them a laugh), I found myself residing at the abode my my good friend Patrick Mulligan.

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Pictured: Mulligan, with what appears to be one of his ancestors. Not pictured, my dear friend Cat who I was unable to take a picture of but whom I also visited. Hound them for it and they will share a picture of me wearing my scarf as a bandanna. Apparently I look like Solid Snake.

So what does one do in Dublin. Why, you visit the historical sights of course! So please forgive me, as some of Dublin’s history, like its Bronze Age relics, are fantastic and ready for the history books.

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Look at that beautifully preserved horde of relics! The spears, the horns, the brooches! Sweet Heavens, the brooches on display were magnificent!

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And this canoe! I bet it could still float in water!

But the best bit were the Bronze Age rapiers.

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Look at these swords! Look at me geeking out over the swords! See, while the Mediterranean cultures developed bronze swords with tangs (a strip of metal that extends from the blade into the handle), the Celts, however, riveted their blades straight to the handle. This allowed costly bronze to be used to make longer swords, fit for thrusting, hence their commonly being called rapiers, despite not having any connection to fine swords of the musketeers. More info can be found here. However, these rivets often broke due to stress, as you might be able to see on these examples.

Also present: bog-men!

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The peat bogs of Ireland have turned bodies into fossils quite well. Here we see an example of a Bronze Age Irishman. From this fossil we learned two things: that the ancient Irish were much smaller than we were, and that they were redheads.

A quick edit roughly a month later: a discussion with a fellow classics scholar here in Rome recently brought to mind a third thing that this bog man has taught: that men of the bronze age styled their hair with pomade. This came up in a discussion on the feasibility of twirled mustaches in ancient times.

So there ends the school-safe portion of the blog. Put the children to bed and get out a glass.

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Dublin has a whiskey museum (note the “e”) where I learned the history of Irish whiskey: from fortified beer to modern coffee flavoring. Apparently it was coffee that saved the floundering whiskey market of the early 20th century, as it was American GIs stopping in Ireland on their way back from the battlefields of the continents that brought Irish Coffee and Irish whiskey back home to America. Tastings followed, and I enjoyed some whiskey that knocked me in the face and some that went down like silk.

And you know what else Dublin has?

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Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…

Guinness knows what’s up. I swear its like a Disney ride in there. Guided tours with tastings. How to pour a proper pint (tip glass at 45 degrees, pour until it 3/4th full, rest until dark, pour at 90 degrees until full). Vats an vats of malted barley! Few pictures were taken within, as I was too enraptured. But take my word for it, what a place to be!

All in all, Dublin was a riot. I thank friendship for that. But Rome awaits, calling me, reminding me that palm trees and sunshine are preferable to the cold and the grey. One more tick off the bucket-list.

 

It may seem strange that I have been living – and therefore blogging – in Rome for two months now and have only blogged one picture from inside Saint Peter’s. This is not to say that I don’t often go the Cathedral. I pop in about once a week (got to take advantage of that Jubilee of Mercy), usually on a weekday evening. I get there an hour before closing, as the sun is setting and the tourists are walking south to Trastevere to soak in the nightlife and the gypsies move further into the city to hock souvenirs in Piazza di Spagna and Piazza di Trevi. Twilight is the magic hour if you want to get into the Vatican without the horrendous line and the obnoxious street vendors.

Selfie for proof.

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And so without further ado, let’s take a brief stroll through the Saint Pete’s.

First off is the obligatory Pieta.

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This is the closest I could possibly get and the crowd moves fast, so forgive the zoom or lack thereof. But let us instead reflect on this masterpiece. On one hand, its religious significance is plain to see. We see the Madonna and Christ as plainly human, one dead and one broken, grieving with loss like any of us poor schmucks. Wrinkled cloth, twisted bodies, the whole nine yards. But from an artistic standpoint, it’s astounding. To make marble ripple like flesh and cloth is mastercraft, and Michelangelo’s greatest work shows his greatness.

Less famous is the bronze statue of Saint Peter himself.

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Notice the feet of the Saint, and how smooth they are. This is because the detail has been literally rubbed off. You see, it is good luck to rub the foot of this bronze statue and, over time, pilgrims and tourists have slowly rubbed and rusted the toes together. In a few hundred more years, we may be looking at a stub of a Saint – a stubbed toe, if you will.

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Here we see the main alter of the cathedral, and the splendid stonework that surrounds it. And when I say stonework, I remind you all that there are no paintings in Saint Peter’s, only mosaic and stonework. Every color you see was meticulously carved and aligned by hand.

And speaking of meticulous work, let’s talk about the Popes.

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I finish my post with a list of every Pope interned in the Vatican. May it remain unfinished until the End of Days. Peruse it and you will notice the gaps and the novelties. That few century long gap during the fall of Rome? That’s when Christians were persecuted. The abrupt ending with Saint John Paul II? That’s because Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is still alive and kicking. I hear he’s taken up writing in his retirement. But when all is said and done, this is what it’s about; the big church down the street and the people who have run it for millennia.

Rome is a living art museum, but that does not mean she has a stagnant gallery.

On the other side of the the river from the Olympic Stadium is a “modern” neighborhood. Which is to say, it is one of those parts of the city where you stop seeing buildings built by popes and start seeing buildings built by Mussolini. Now these buildings have a certain aesthetic that’s… arguable.

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But what balances this concrete block out? Revitalization with art, of course.

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This old military barracks would have probably been converted into condos in America. Here in Rome, it is the site of a yearly art show: the Outdoor festival.

What’s that, you hate modern art as a general rule? Well you’re in good company, as I do too. But I also realize that when someone really pours their talents into something, then there’s beauty. Or at the very least, there is something fun. So let’s burst through that proverbial wall of yours…

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And let’s talk about art.

Art can do a lot of things. It can use metaphor to talk about politics and world issues, like here.

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Pictured is a maze of street barricades with computer errors written around the walls. Not pictured (because it was impossible to take a picture of it) is the sound of the speakers blaring out those same error messages in a cringingly annoying computer generated message. A very good reason to make your way through this troublesome maze. And how do we exit this maze?

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Why, through the political metaphor of course! I’m not touching that one with a 10 foot pole.

But not all art has to be controversial. Some if it just has to be cool. Like this shadow art for example.

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That’s one spotlight and many rotating glass objects that, when the time is right, looks back at you.

But my favorite piece was the indoor light show.

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The room was completely black except for these spotlights. Sometimes they scanned the room, sometimes they swung like pendulums, always it was to the calming sound of a gentle rain. I liked it so much that I went to visit it again 20 minutes later.

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Now the light rainfall had turned to a silence interrupted only by electronic sounds. The lights, now red, were moving much more methodically and in greater unison. In general, much more menacing.

What did this mean? What did any of this art mean? Well, that belongs to us to argue about. Or, instead of arguing, we could just enjoy the fun of it all. Like this picture of a giant carrying a tree next to the Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

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Sometimes art is just fun.

 

Before I begin this travel blog, I would like to take a somber moment. My grandmother died a few days before my trip down South to visit my Italian cousins, and that hung over a good portion of the trip. I and everyone who knew her only have good memories of my grandmother and, though I am saddened that she is gone, I know she is in a far better place now. If God has a lanai, she’s sitting there sipping coffee.

At the same time, I’m glad that I visited my family – my grandmother’s brothers and sisters, and their families – when I did. And I am glad that we were able to share a great time together.

A time in which I ate a lot of pizza.

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A LOT of pizza.

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Very nearly copious amounts of pizza.

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Notice the me for scale.

Also cheese. Not just a lot of cheese, but also the best cheese I have ever had in my entire life.

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The city of Battipaglia, where my family lives and where the Guarracino family is originally from, is rightly proud of their buffaloes. It is from these buffaloes that the locals make three primary cheeses: mozzarella di bufala, ricotta di bufala, and many different variations of caciocavallo (a type of provolone). And all three are fantastic.

And I won’t even begin to start when it comes to my Zia Rosa’s cooking. Simply divine. I’ll just leave these zeppoli as a tidbit.

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Joe Metrano, Mike Shun, Paddy Mulligan, and Seth Kraft – my zeppoli squad – if you are reading this and seeing what I’m seeing, then y’all know that we have to up our zeppoli game.

But I didn’t just spend the visit eating. I also visited the local sights, starting with the nearby ruins of Paestum.

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It may come as a surprise to many that some of the best preserved Greek ruins in the world are in Southern Italy. Why, you may ask? Because the Greeks colonized Paestum and much of Southern Italy. Well, the history is a bit more complex then that. The area was first settled by the Oscans, who were a local Italic people. Then the Greeks came in and really started building up the city. Then the Oscans came back and reconquered the city, starting an era of Oscan rule that would last… long enough for the Romans to conquer them.

But this site was preserved so well because it quickly became a swamp during the Dark Ages, and the swamp became home to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Thus the area became a local secret up until the 1800’s, when it was added to the Grand Tour (which was basically a pan-European tour route for the insanely wealthy). However, the swamp kept out actual archaeologists until Benito decided that malaria is bad and drained the swamp. The allies invaded, the American scholars and tourists arrived shortly after, and the rest is history.

Also tile work. Yet more fantastic Roman tile work to satisfy my admittedly abnormal appreciation for classical flooring.

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Here’s a fun little something from Paestum. This used to be the site of a temple to some minor Greek God, until the Romans came. Then the Romans faced a problem. On one hand, they were Romans, and therefore didn’t care about any pansy Greek god messing up their superior Roman city planning. On the other hand, they were Romans, and therefore extremely superstitious. As a result, they just built this stone shed with no doors around it. That way, they didn’t technically destroy the temple and anger the god, they just threw it under the proverbial bed and forgot about it.

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The next major site I visited was Salerno at night, which is a magnificently beautiful city. Flex your arm. The forearm is the Amalfi coast, as seen here from across the bay.

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The inner crease of your elbow is the harbor, as seen here.

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Pretty, no?

The bicep forms a long and beautiful stretch of beach called the Lungomare. My cousin calls it “Salifornia” because it reminds him of famous pictures of Los Angeles, but in Salerno.

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And then, after Salerno, there’s Naples…

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Naples is insane. I swear there were streets so small and dense that I could stretch out my arms and block the whole road. And that packed road I’m in in that picture above? That’s Via San Gregorio Armeno, and it is famous for this.

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Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, all together in the presepe. And every stall on every street is selling some extra character or add on to your basic home nativity set.

Every single stall.

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And then suddenly, cathedral.

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You don’t get “suddenly, cathedral” in America, or even in Rome; in Rome the cathedral gets a piazza to itself and a promenade with trees and shops. Naples doesn’t have the room for any of those frills. No, all that open space is inside the cathedral.

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This cathedral is dedicated to Saint Gennaro, whose blood is famously preserved here. Three times a year his preserved blood goes from the solid coagulant to hot, living, liquid blood. When the city of Naples was riled to frenzy during the Napoleonic Wars, only the liquefaction of Saint Gennaro’s blood brought the riots to end.

My visit was all too short, yet packed with good times. I hope to return soon, to visit my family again. And I would like to thank my family so much for their hospitality and love, especially when I needed it.

Ciao tutti! Some of you may be asking yourself, “hey, isn’t this blog post a week late? Is Nick some kind of lazy spoilsport?” Well, forgive me, but I was recently quite far away from civilized life. How far away? Well…

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Here I am in the mountains. And if you look at that very same mountain pass from this angle…

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You will see that I was actually above the clouds. And you know what you can’t do above clouds? Update a blog.

But seriously, I was extraordinarily blessed to attend the Sagra di Funghi in the tiny Campanian mountain town of Cusano Mutri. “Sagra” is an Italian word meaning “festival”, and is similar to a harvest festival back home. Indeed it’s about this time that New England towns turn bright orange and decorate every corner and stoop with pumpkins. The difference is that sagre (the plural of “sagra”) are specified; Cusano Mutri was celebrating “funghi”, or mushrooms, though the neighboring town’s sagra di castagne (chestnuts) bled over and the whole thing was a riot of food and good times.

Now before I discus the sagra itself, I must devote an amount of time to the Apennines and their beauty.

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We visited a deep, narrow canyon that had been carved out of the white limestone by a fast moving river. As can be seen in the first picture, the river had swelled and receded over the years, causing that beautiful natural arch in the background. The river was a light green due to the algae and the limestone silt, and ran over boulders and through old bridges. Truly a wonder of nature.

And since we gave Mother Nature her due, let’s visit Uncle Bacchus at the festival.

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Cusano Mutri has a population of about 4,000 (just under 2 Holy Crosses), yet the whole town gets lit up for the sagra. Truly a quintessential Southern Italian mountain town, Cusano Mutri was built into the mountainside. Literally.

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Notice how the gigantic rock structure actually looms over the main road. And, of course, one does not waste a perfectly good rock structure. Another quintessential Southernism is the year round Nativity set, or presepe.

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The baby Christ is not on display at the moment, but give it a few months. Indeed, the Nativity set was invented in Italy by Saint Francis of Assisi, and Southern Italy is famous the world over for going all out come Christmas. And, evidently, early October as well.

But what made the town special was the food. Oh God, the food.

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Here is a display of my childhood, and what I wish my childhood was like. Sfogliatelle (the grandfather of the lobster-claw pastry, but with custard instead of whipped cream) and babas (rum cake cupcakes) a plenty, and with some crazy inventions ranging from pistachio sfogliatelle, limoncello sfogliatelle, and even baba sfogliatelle (that is to say, a baba INSIDE a sfogliatella).  I decided not to go too crazy and instead had a Baccio Chocolate sfogliatelle.

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And speaking of chocolate, I saw how this flour and water,

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Becomes this pizza dough,

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Which becomes these guys! Pizze fritte with Nutella! The Italian answer to American funnel cakes.

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But one does not live on pastry alone. Behold, arrosticini in the making!

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These little guys are skewers of goat meat cooked over a long, thin, deep charcoal brazier (and I say brazier, as there is no grill grate, and therefore it is not a grill) and they are absolutely delicious. I have a big spot in my heart for grilled meat from the pastoral animals.

An interesting note: if you zoom in on the above picture, you can read the orange sign in the background that says “8 pieces for 5 euro”. This eventually changed to 10 pieces, as the guys down the street set up shop the day before and were priced the same. Not to be outdone, these guys bumped up the goat value.

And how can one go down South to Campania and not have pizza? And how can one go to a mushroom festival and not eat mushrooms. Ergo…

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Porcini pizza that was absolutely fantastic! The pizza down South is much better than the pizza in Rome; culinary speaking, the crust tends to be breadier and more flexible in the South, whereas Roman pizza is too thin and cracks upon folding. What is pizza if it can not be folded?

Also, I visited a museum (it is, after all, STUDY abroad). Cusano Mutri has a famous paleontologist museum. Look at these dead fish!

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See, studying!

There are few things that justify waking up at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM, and one of those things is the very godly event that is a papal audience. Now if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, then you will remember that I recommended 7:00 AM as the time to visit the Vatican, as the crowds are nonexistent. Throw that out if you’re going to a papal audience, because I got there at 4:00 and I wasn’t even the first person in line yet.

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That is the line at 4:30. Granted, most of the line is made up of Americans (and one old Italian lady that sees the Pope every Wednesday), but a line is a line. And considering the entire city is dead at 4:30, that’s something.

Well, not all of the city is dead. There was one cafe open near the Vatican that, inevitably, we all ended up going too. From this cafe I learned two very important things.

  1. If you order a cappuccino and cornetto in English, then the baristo will make a nice heart or wave design in your coffee, serve you your cornetto with a smile, and charge you 3.50. If you order in Italian, you’ll get your coffee and cornetto in 20 seconds, without any frills, and pay 1.50.
  2. Nearly as soon as the cafe opened, about a dozen old Italian men gathered for their obligatory coffee and cig. It was just a sea of grey hair and greetings. As my friend and roommate Richard put it, “no matter where you go, there’s gonna be a social club.”

After my coffee I hurried back to the front of the line, where some friends had saved me a space. Luckily this space was under the the canopy of columns, as it started to rain. While my friends bought rain ponchos from the enterprising gypsies, I was dry and appreciating the spitting gargoyles.

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During this time one American girl was standing on the base of a column to stay dry. This would not be tolerated by a carabiniero who, from his side of the guarded security fence that protects the Vatican, went up to her and yelled, and I quote, “Don’t stand there! Respect for Italy! You Americans, always ‘spaghetti, mandolini’, but no respect!” She got off the column.

Oh, but when the Vatican opened it flooded with those Americans… as well as Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Frenchmen, Polish, Portuguese, Brazilians, Central Americans, an Indonesian dance group, and a surprising amount of Slovakian soldiers in full military dress. They, without a doubt, were the winners of the nonexistent contest for, despite their being about 2 dozen of them in total, they had the biggest flag.

I had snagged a seat close to Saint Peter’s.

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And, more importantly, it was an aisle seat. This will be important later.

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And why was it important? Because of the Popemobile of course! Il Papa drives by all the aisle seats in his Pontifical Fiat!

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Now this picture is terrible quality, I know. There are clearer pictures of Bigfoot. But when Papa Francesco was making his rounds I got caught up in the moment and was too busy dealing with the Catholic Mosh Pit to snap a good picture.

BUT THEN HE WENT AROUND A SECOND TIME AND I GOT A PICTURE OF HIM SMILING!

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He was much more energetic during this round. Peace signs, thumbs up, telling people to stop standing on the chairs because they’re not alloyed to stand on the chairs but they do it anyway, it was great!

Afterwards he gave a reading from the Gospel of Luke and gave a sermon in Italian about the virtue of mercy. Mercy is kind of his thing. This sermon was then translated into Spanish, German, French, Polish, Portuguese, Indonesian, and even Slovakian (I imagine for those soldiers with the gigantic flag). He blessed any religious articles we were carrying (and I know people that were buying rosaries in bulk – and when I mean in bulk I mean by the dozen – for the event) and we all said the Our Father in Latin (woohoo, Latin!)

Then the crowd started to disperse. Small crowd, just tens of thousands.

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This whole Vatican voyage lasted about ten hours and I was pooped. I want back to campus, threw myself in bed for a short nap, and woke up at 7:00 AM the next day. Well worth it though to catch a few glimpses of the big man in the pointy hat.

My travels in Motherland have brought me to the fine hills of Umbria, where the Apennines rise up and form the spine of the country. Here, nestled in the hills and valleys, is a villa turned agriturismo (a sort of agricultural b&b). And it is at this agriturismo that I learned to turn the fruits of the soil into the wine of the table.

The first step is to identify the perfect vineyard.

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Behold the fields of Lake Trasimene. Roughly 2200 years ago, in the year 217 B.C. (and I don’t care who you are, it’s B.C., not B.C.E.), a mighty battle was fought between the Romans, under the consul Gaius Flaminius, and the Carthaginians, under Hannibal. What was supposed to be an easy battle for the Romans turned into a butchering, as Hannibal caught the Romans by surprise. Coming down from the mountain sides, the Punic prince drove the Romans into the blue lake. Between the blood, the sweat, and the lake water slashing in his face, Hannibal lost an eye to infection. For centuries farmers found Roman weaponry when tuning their fields with plows. To this day the Battle of Lake Trasimene is considered one of history’s greatest and bloodiest ambushes.

And of course this makes for fantastic grapes.

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Look at these grapes. The difference between fine wine and OK wine is, of course, how much global conflict occurred in the vineyard. You can practically taste Hannibal’s lost eye.

And since this is an old fashioned vineyard, we must juice these grapes the old fashioned way.

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Yes for many years I was mocked for my feet. “Frodo Baggins”, they called me, as well as “Bigfoot”. Look at me now, doubters! It takes sweat, hard work, and big feet to make good wine. If you have ever had a sip of wine and thought “that is a nice, dry red wine, with a nice bite”, well, that bite has to come from somewhere. Of course, if you are a weakling, you can put your trust in pansy machines.

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Look at this high-tech monster. Hyper modern, this one dates from the 1930’s, which is wine-speak for last month. It’s essentially a barrel, a hinge, and a car jack, but why rely on such machines when you have men like me to crush your grapes the old fashioned way? I swear, these mechanical Frankensteins are gonna put us out of business.

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And here I am enjoying the fruits of my labors. Or rather, here I am enjoying the fruits of labors from two years ago, as wine takes time. Nevertheless, I am sure that the fine men and women who made this wine would not mind me stealing the credit for the purposes of blogging.

What I did make myself, however, are these gnocchi.

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Toss these in your Sunday gravy! I can assure you they were made with the utmost care in an Italian villa… by an American tourist.

A new year of school means the same old song and dance: orientation. The introductions, the floor meetings, the tours of campus. Oh goodness me, don’t get me started on the tours.

Too late, you got me started on the tours. It’s your fault, really.

So you know how Holy Cross has that brick wall around it with the wrought iron gate? You know the one, with the nice sign on it with the old (read: better) logo? Its got the fancy Latin and all those nice carvings? So Rome has one of those fancy gates too. Actually, it has a bunch.

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It’s a bit showy if you ask me. What are they trying to prove? We get it, you’re old and rich.

And for such an old campus, you’d think they would take better care of the fields. The local football stadium needs a major redo.

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I mean, I know they do football a bit differently in Europe, but at least lay some fresh sod down. Its all sand and bare brick! Plus half the thing is crumbling. I’ve always though that if you dropped an ancient Roman in the Coliseum, he’d get ticked off and ask why the heck no one decided to redo the tile or something. Then he’d probably ask why no one speaks Latin anymore and that would be an awkward conversation to have.

And we were going to meet the dean but, guess what, he wasn’t even at his office! Something about a “plebiscite removing the monarchy” or some excuse like that.

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Vittorio Emanuele the Second? More like “Vittorio Emanuele the Worst!” You gotta have a big ego to put your name on the side of the Pantheon, am I right folks?

The gym is also rubbish. No free weights in sight, its all cardio. At least there’s a pretty ok pool just off campus.

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So ya, the campus is pretty alright. I guess I’ll just have to rough it.

And speaking of roughing it, I’m already getting assigned homework. Take a gander at my first project from my Italian Culture class.

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See this cheese? I have to eat this cheese. And, as if that wasn’t hard enough, I have to identify it. Such work.

This post was all sarcastic, if you couldn’t tell. I mean, I’m not THAT full of myself.

I wasn’t sarcastic about the cheese though; that is my actual homework, and I can assure you that I am hard at work!

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Nicholas Guarracino '18

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