Friends, Romans, Crusaders, lend me your ears! I came here to praise Rome, not to bury it!
That’s a pun there. Because Shakespeare. Anyways…
Ciao tutti! Mi chiamo Nick Guarracino. I study classics and Italian at Holy Cross and I’ll be studying in and blogging from the logical center of those fields and arguably the universe: Roma.
This first blog post covers a few days, so get ready for a wall of text and some groggily taken pictures! Yay international travel!
After spending my last day in the States baking chocolate chip-coconut cookies, eating all the Vietnamese food I won’t be able to find in Italy, and trying to stuff enough clothes to last 8 months into a 50ib suitcase (as well as copious amounts of English muffins and Oreos for my cousins in Italy), I found myself greeted by the familiar smell of Boston’s storied Logan International. It’s a special perfume: aweird mix of burning diesel, curring concrete, and wet dog that I call “Logan Grey”. It’s an oddly comforting smell for us Massachusetts residents shipping out of Boston. Indeed the “Logan Grey”, the Madonna Shrine rising up out of Orient Heights like acastle, and the fuel tanks that keep this whole town running all tend to be the last tastes of Boston one gets when traveling. It’s a nice snapshot, really. I’ll almost miss it.
Sorry about romancing about Boston; this is a travel blog, so lets talk about travel.
Pictured: English muffins to be smuggled into Italy.
I took a red eye with a lay over in Dublin (note: Aer Lingus, sadly, does not serve Guinness, which is the liquid of the gods and leprechauns and the only reason the Irish had the moral resolve to survive the potato famine. Really dropped the ball on that one, Aer Lingus), I found myself in Rome alongside my aunt Adelaide and her good friend Sandra. The taxi driver struck up a conversation with ever changing subjects; first the earthquake last week, then the city‘s layout and districts, before ending in the subject of graffiti. He said how it was such a shame that people would paint all over Rome, when Rome itself is a museum. I felt guilty as an American, as not only did we invent modern spray paint graffiti, much of the graffiti I saw on the ride to the hotel was of American rappers and characters. Do you really need to spray paint the Wu Tang Clan logo on the side of a Baroque building? We all love Wu Tang, but disgracing such works of beauty… that’s just Torture (if you like Wu Tang you’ll get the joke).
Wine and baccala followed (God I love salt cod), and after that a very well deserved nap before a trip to the city centre. There was a list of sights to be seen on day one, and we could not deviate from my aunt’s master plan; the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, a gelateria, etc. I was able to fit in a short jaunt to the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument (or the “Wedding Cake”, as it is nicknamed). A lot of people hate the monument, what with it being a perfect example of Neoclassical Brutalism in a sea of Baroque architecture, and it being built by ol‘ Benny Mussolini, the world’s worst piñata, on the site of a historicalmedieval neighborhood, plus it’s a traffic nightmare in an already massively congested city. But hey, if you like Neoclassicism (and you bet your behind I do), it’s a fun sight. And it’s my blog, so you better believe it.
*edit: I made a terrible error; the Wedding Cake isn’t an example of Neoclassical Brutalism, as Brutalism wouldn’t be invented until the 50’s. It is, however, an example of Neoclassical Fascist-Modernism. Silly me!
Gotta love that wedding cake. Unless you don’t. Then we have different artistic sensibilities.
The next day I woke up bright and early for Saint Peters. If you go at 7, when it opens, the lines are nonexistent except for the nuns. It’s a fantastic time to catch a morning mass before the selfie crowd shows up. Also the Holy Door is open for a few more months; that means if you enter the Vatican through the front door, you gain absolution from sin. Now aint that the deal of the century?
Forgive me if pictures of the Vatican are sparse; sometimes you want to be a tourist, and sometimes you want to be a pilgrim. That morning I was a pilgrim.
The chapel in Saint Peters where I had mass. Sorry it’s sideways, as it was the only way to get the full fresco.
The Castel Dell Sant’Angelo, however, was where I geeked out. Amazing view of Rome from an amazing site. For those who don’t know, the castle was built on top of the massive grave mound of Marcus Aurelius (the guy who died in the first act of “Gladiator”), and on top of that castle are Renaissance Papal apartments. It’s like a history sandwich.
The view from the castle.
OK, as an amateur tile layer I have to comment on this. This is 500 year old tile from the Castel Dell Sant’Angelo. It has outlasted the modern concrete around it, despite having to support heavy cannons back in the day and American tourists today. If that tile was laid today, it would crumble in a few years.
Shortly after our morning in Saint Peters, we met up with Sandra’s cousin Francesco. The man has more energy then an electric jackrabbit, and has a deep love of the ancient Roman Kingdom and Republic. He led us on a short tour of some historical sights, recommended pizzerias, and a great bar in Trastevere. Trastevere is just south of the Vatican, but the narrow streets and old earth-toned buildings keep out most tourists. I highly recommended – plus I was finally able to get that Guinness.
Get on my level Aer Lingus. And sorry again for the sideways picture; what with the drinking, it’s almost like the movie “Sideways”, accept my blog is actually interesting.
My last evening before school orientation concluded in still yet more wine and baccala at a great Osteria (which is Italian slang for a restaurant with a short menu and a long wine list). The place had local fame because it was the favorite restaurant of a local Camorra boss – Camorra is Neapolitan for Cosa Nostra, which in Sicily and America is called mafia – who got whacked. That crime boss had great taste; the baccala was great! Add the Osteria da Zi Umberto to your list.
I mean, just look at this baccala! Those camorristi have good tastes!
Tomorrow I’ll be moving into the John Felice Rome Center, which is run by Loyola Chicago. Heck, ill probably upload this post there. When things calm down there, expect more from me. Until then, ciao!
Oh, and a note; I’ve heard it said that Italian internet is “Moroccan quality at Swedish prices”. This is not a compliment and, it seems, that statement is accurate. Nevertheless, expect only the finest of blogging.