Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buon Compleanno!!

Today is my birthday—and to top it all off, my Champagne Birthday (when you turn the same age as the day you were born) so it feels extra special and sparkly.

Tonight I celebrate by doing a few things: First, I’m going to a Rome Expats Happy Hour near Campo de Fiori which could be a nice chance to meet some interesting, like-minded people. Or at the very least enjoy an aperitivo with a couple girlfriends.

Then I head to ‘Gusto Wine Bar for dinner with a random mix of people I’ve befriended over the past month, some as recently as last weekend. One of these new friends is a singer named Wendy Lewis from Gary, Indiana (RIP MJ) who’s been living in Rome for the past 15 years. She tours all over the continent (she’s just getting back from a gig in Zurich as a matter of fact) and tonight is her first local show in a long while—it happens to be at 'Gusto, on my birthday. A bunch of her Italian friends are coming out for the show and she invited me to join the table and celebrate with them.

And this weekend I’m taking a week long trip to Cinque Terre, Turino and Milano—I forfeited a day at the spa (which is ridiculously expensive here by the way) in favor of a train trip up North to visit a few cool cities and see some friends I haven’t seen in a while.

So that’s my birthday! I’m off to give myself a manicure/pedicure and a relaxer (yes, I’m doing it myself… and yes, I know its bad but you can’t afford luxuries when you’re living the gypsy life!), a little beautification for the occasion.

Take a look at the lovely note I received from The Universe this morning:

A few years back, not so long ago, heaven and earth erupted into a major celebration with the news of your impending adventure into this very time and space. You see, someone like Stacy [last name] doesn't come along all that often. In fact, there's never been a single one like you, nor is there ever ANY possibility that another will come again. You're an Angel among us. Someone, whose eyes see what no others will EVER see, whose ears hear what no others will EVER hear, and whose perspective and feelings will NEVER, ever be duplicated. Without YOU, the Universe, and ALL THAT IS, would be sadly less than it is.

Quite simply:

You're the kind of person, Stacy,
Who's hard to forget,
A one-in-a-million
To the people you've met.
Your friends are as varied
As the places you go,
And they all want to tell you
In case you don't know:
That you make a big difference
In the lives that you touch,
By taking so little
And giving so much!

Stacy, you are so AWESOME! For your birthday, friends and angels from every corner of the Universe, including buddies you didn't know you had, will be with you to wish you the HAPPIEST of days and an exciting new year in time and space. You won't be alone!


How beautiful is that?? I realize everyone probably gets the same message but it brought tears to my eyes! How special am I! THANK YOU, Universe!

27 is going to be a fantastic, incredible year, I can feel it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day trip to Umbria/Lazio

On Sunday I went on a day trip to Umbria & Lazio with a new friend I made here in Rome (a French Au Pair from Paris). Her language school planned the trip and she invited me to come along.

I barely made it though, and all b/c of daylight savings time. On Saturday night before I went to bed, I set the clock on my iPhone back one hour. I set my alarm for 6:30am since I had to meet the bus at Termini station at 7:45am. I woke up around 6:20am and decided to get out of bed and check the time online to make sure my iPhone didn’t do something funny during the night… sure enough, it was 7:20am NOT 6:20am! My phone automatically adjusted the time at 3am so my clock went back two hours instead of one. I had just enough time to brush my teeth, throw on some clothes and sprint down the street to the bus (thankfully I live only 15 minutes away, add one reason why its good to live in SanLo). I arrived at 7:50am but I wasn’t the last one… a lot of people seemed to have clock issues that morning. We actually left one poor girl behind who arrived at Termini at 8:02am and couldn’t find the bus.

Our first stop was Orvieto. There were about 20 of us on the trip, lead by Marina’s language teacher who was an excellent tour guide and gave us a full explanation of all the sights. Sadly my Italian is still really shaky (aka nonexistent) so Marina had to translate for me. And as English is her second language it was easier for her to do the translation in French. So I got an Italian lesson AND got to practice my French, not bad. We saw the Duomo (where I learned about those ever popular Italian names),

wandered around the tiny streets (I love Europe and their little cobblestone streets, barely big enough for two people to walk through), saw the first home of the Popes before they built Vatican City (who knew!),

and took in the incredible view from the walled edge of Orvieto.

Afterwards, we had 2 free hours for lunch. A group of us branched off in search of a Slow Food restaurant recommended by my new friend Elyssa (an expat who’s been living in Rome with her Italian husband for about 8 years). It was completely booked so we went back out into the street to try to figure out where to eat. An old Italian couple were leaning out of their window watching the street (why do old folks love to do that?) and called out to us, asking us where we were from (we made quite a colorful group). We rattled off the list of countries (England, America, Holland, France…) and chatted with them for a bit. We asked for their recommendation for lunch and they pointed us to Ristorante Cocco, a tiny place just across the street. We got there just before a huge crowd of Italians showed up, filling the rest of the tables. And it was one of the best meals I had in a long time… the 9 of us shared 3 bottles of vino rosso della casa, 2 bottles of water, a starter and main dish/pasta each (I had caprise to start followed by tagliatelle with black truffles… SOO good) and paid only 11 Euros per person! Comparably, the other group when to a place near the Duomo (tourist central) and paid 17 Euros for "5 pieces of ravioli and a soda".

We rolled out of the restaurant completely stuffed and sleepy from all the wine to meet up with the rest of the group for a tour of the Duomo (it was closed in the morning for mass) before moving on to the next village.

Civita di Bagnoregio is nicknamed The City of the Dead b/c in its 2,500 years it has survived 24 earthquakes, Nazi occupation and bombings and is still standing... for now. It's literally this tiny medieval village perched on the very top of a mountain.

The eerie thing is that mountain beaneath it is finally starting to crumble so they don’t know how long the village will survive (parts of it have already fallen off!). Its connected to mainland Italy by a long, narrow bridge that snakes its way up the mountain to the city gates. It took us about 20 minutes to walk there (mainly uphill, my legs are so sore today!) but once you get inside its the most incredible sight.

The village looks frozen in time—you can walk the entire place in about 10 minutes, everything is rustic and ancient, including the people who live there.

There are one or two B&Bs, a couple of trattorias and a church in the center of the piazza, naturally the social hub of the village. There are about 14 residents now (bless their brave souls!) but crowds of people from the village down below swarm the piazza in the evenings; eating roasted chestnuts, listening to music and hanging around chatting with each other.

It was incredible… and to know that the village won’t be around forever makes it even cooler that I actually got to see it.

So the trip was fantastic—even the 2 hour drive was pleasant, just watching the beautiful Italian countryside. We made it back to Rome around 7:30pm. An exhausting but wonderful day.

Total spent for the day:
Bus ticket— 12 Euro
R/T cable car to Orvieto— 2 Euro
Lunch at Cocco— 11 Euro

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just names

Can I just share a “blond moment” with you for a sec?

4 Italian names: Matteo, Marco, Luca, Giovanni
4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

I only just TODAY (during a tour of the Duomo in Orvieto, more on that later) realized what the English equivalent to these ubiquitous Italian names are! LOL… lordy :)

The Cheater

So my roommate Bridge has this girlfriend. I don’t know her name so I’ll just call her Gisele since she looks a little like Ms. Bundchen. Apparently (this is the gossip I got from Tommy, the guy I’m renting the room from) they had been dating for a couple years until Bridge dumped her, saying he just wanted to enjoy being single—mind you, the man is 35 years old. And then sometime within the last month they reconciled and I’ve pretty much never seen him without her.

Last week I made myself some pasta for dinner. It was around 11pm when they got home and I was working on my computer when Gisele popped her head in my door and said, “Excuse me, is it your pasta? (I’m doing her accent)” And when I said yes she said, “Can I have some?” Kind of random considering the girl doesn’t even know me but she is the kind of person who would do that kind of thing. Later she came by to thank me, saying the food was delicious (aw!). And to top it all off, she has this tiny little crippled Chihuahua that is just the cutest. The first time I tried to pet the thing she nearly bit my hand off. But these days she always comes in my room and hangs out—she just hops around on her 3 good legs, its really cute.

So the girlfriend is always here but she’s kind of grown on me. You know those girls who are sort of airheads but don’t really realize it? That’s her. Or maybe she’s just high, who knows. Anyway she’s super cute and really sweet. By this point I’ve probably spoken more to her than I’ve spoken to Bridge.

Anyway, last night I get home around 12:30am and what do I find? Some random black haired, tattooed chick laying all up in Bridge’s bed (his door was open)! She gave me a little half smile and said “Ciao”. And Bridge was walking out of his room and just gave me a quick “Ciao” over his shoulder. No this two-timing, no good, son-of-a…

And today, guess who’s back: yep, Gisele. Not even 24 hours between the two. She was laying in the bed when I walked in the front door, in the same spot tattoo chick was the night before—I just wanted to tell her, “Some skank was lying there this morning, get out now!”

But of course, I don’t know her like that so it’s not my place to tell her that her man’s a dog. So we just chatted a bit, me feeling sorry for her. On the other hand, I can only wonder if it isn’t her fault she's in this mess. From what I hear, Italian women put up with a lot of bullsh*t. Maybe she feels like she just needs to suck it up and take what she can get. Who knows?

Anyway, I’ll just focus on not giving Bridge dirty looks when he comes around. Hopefully I don’t run into any more of his mystery women while I’m here. Homeboy isn’t even all that. Where does he get off thinking he can play Mr. Casanova?

Monday, October 19, 2009

An apartment at the 11th hour

Last Monday I realized I should probably double check with the owner of my pensione to make sure I could stay for another week while I continued my apt search. Seeing as how we discussed this and that the place had been empty for the past week I assumed there would be a room available for me. Nope. She was booked solid from Friday-Monday so I needed to find another place to go ASAP. She offered for me to come back Tuesday, paying 25 Euros/night for my room which is awesome, but would add up really quick. Plus without the benefit of internet or a kitchen, it just didn’t seem worth it. So I called up a guy who’s apt I’d gone to see a week prior (I had already told him I wouldn’t take it, sure I would find something halfway decent instead) and asked him if the room was still available. The apt was decent but the neighborhood was rundown and dirty and way further out of the center than I wanted to live. But by that point I was desperate with few options. Thankfully the room was still free and he was nice enough to let me move in on Friday.

On my first night in the new apt I decided to check out the so-called amazing San Lorenzo nightlife. I invited my new friend Ben (who lives just up the street but on the other side of the “Wall”, within the center of Rome) to come with me. We started out with dinner at Formula Uno, the popular pizzeria down the street from my apt, around 9pm (it was really good but no Da Michele!).

We finished dinner around 11pm and wandered the streets in search of a cool bar to hang out at. After walking around for 10 minutes without finding a decent place to go, Ben started cracking jokes about the neighborhood being full of zombies—he was only half joking. Literally everyone looked like they were strung out and just a little bit off. The streets were pretty empty but considering it was Friday night we figured we were just too early for the party kids. Finally we found this place called Rive Gauche. Its a big bar set up to look like a Parisian café with dim lighting, iconic French posters and a sea of small tables. And the crowd was (thankfully) a little older. It was packed by the time we arrived (around 11:30pm) but we were able to snatch the last table. We hung out there until about 12:30am and Ben offered to walk me home, saying he wouldn’t recommend my walking alone. By that time the streets were packed with people (guess a night out starts at 1am round here). We passed two prostitutes who propositioned Ben (no joke), beggars, homeless people and drunken minors. Lovely.

San Lorenzo is home to La Sapienza University (the biggest in Rome) so the median age is about 23 and the kids all have this punk rock/grunge thing going on. Everyone stays in the neighborhood for everything—lunch, dinner, nightlife, everything... but for those of us who want to be amongst humans, you have to cross into the “city center” which involves walking through a long scary underpass and walking 10 minutes around the train station. And everyone knows the train station is the last place you want to be in a European city, especially at night (the other day my Italian friend cautioned me against rapists who apparently hang out there. Great).

Now I don’t know if I’m hating on San Lorenzo simply because I’m being stubborn and am determined not to like this neighborhood but I’ve come to the conclusion that it sucks—as does the hyped-up nightlife. The only plus side is that since this area is full of students, all the bars, restaurants and even the supermarkets are pretty cheap (there, a little positivity).

I came to Rome for the beauty of the city. I wanted to walk out of my front door and discover neighborhood tratorrias tucked into cute little side streets around the corner from my apt. I wanted to open my window to the sound of church bells and cars driving along cobblestone streets. I wanted to know the freedom of living in a city where you're actually able to walk everywhere. I didn’t want to have to check my watch every 5 minutes when I’m out with friends, making sure I leave early enough to catch the last bus back home (or forgo that last drink or two so I can afford the 15 Euro taxi ride back home). I didn’t want to worry about my safety walking down the street. Unfortunately this apt situation puts a damper on my experience here. But what I try to remember is that when I moved to Paris in 2007 I ended up in a pretty sh*tty neighborhood too. And if I recall how that story went, I'm destined to find a great apt in a fabulous neighborhood really soon. So the hunt is on again. At least this time I don’t have the threat of looming homelessness to make things even more desperate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Now that my guests are gone the homesickness has finally hit me. I have a “glass half full” kind of disposition so it’s hard for me to feel really down but I’m just lonely. And the other day I spoke to the Signora (at my pensione) who told me that both of her B&Bs are full from Friday-Sunday so I have to find a place to stay for those three nights—the added stress of looming homelessness in a foreign city is not helping matters. She offered for me to come back on Monday at a substantial discount on the nightly rate but the room would still be out of my budget. Plus the fact that there’s no internet, TV or kitchen kind of sours me on the whole place.

So in a nutshell I have no friends, I’ll be thrown out this Friday and I have yet to figure out what the heck I’m doing here in the first place. But the thing is I live for these kinds of life experiences so I can’t help but feel excited at the same time. I’m happy that the city is starting to make sense to me (I often find myself looking up to find that I know exactly where I am and how to make my way back home without consulting my map) and that each day I’m beginning to feel less like a tourist and more like a local. I’m grateful for the people who are making an effort to help me integrate and build a life here (one of my blog readers set me up with her Italian friend and we met for drinks last night. She was with her American boyfriend who lives in Barcelona and they were both really cool, interesting people. She invited me to dinner at her house and is even planning to introduce me to a couple of her single male friends… I won’t say no to that! lol). I’m glad that my classmates seem sort of interesting (specifically a woman named Anna from Brazil) and friendly. I’m grateful for my budding friendship with a cool guy from Brooklyn (a documentary filmmaker here on a 3 month assignment) who is game for just about anything involving alcohol and will accompany me to check out all the bars I don’t feel comfortable hanging out in alone.

The thing about life abroad is that you make these fast and fleeting relationships, which can be really significant and intense and exciting. But on the other hand it makes you realize how far from your old life you really are. Not to make it seem like things are all bad though. I get these little bouts of self-pity that I like to dip my toe into once in a while but 90% of the time I’m pinching myself that I actually get to live here in this incredible city. And my social schedule is filling up nicely. Tonight I’m meeting a new Italian friend for drinks in a neighborhood outside of the center that I’ve never visited before. Tomorrow I have an invite to a dinner party hosted by woman (a black singer from New York) I recently got in touch with through a long chain of email introductions. Saturday night I’m partying with a Roman guy I met through my friend Temi in London… ok, pause. I’m being absolutely ridiculous. (Writing is cathartic) Pity party officially over :)

Two years ago I moved to Paris to find my joie de vivre and now I get to experience la dolce vita in Rome. I'm owed some injections of harsh reality every now and again. Didn’t someone once say that too much of a good thing is bad?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Napoli & Positano

Simona and I spent 3 days in Positano, passing through Naples along the way. First of all, Naples is insane. I would never have believed that a city like that exists in picture-perfect Italy. Naples is raw and gritty and dirty… its not hard to imagine that you’ve dropped into a 3rd world country. But the Neapolitans are so damn proud of their city—you gotta love that. And the pizza! Only once in my life have I tasted pizza nearly as good and that was in a small hilltop town near Florence (I can’t remember the name of the place but my friend Shelby and her boyfriend brought me there when I went to visit her a couple years ago and the first bite literally brought tears to my eyes it was so yummy). On the way to Positano we had lunch at Trianon Pizzeria at the suggestion of one of The Expat’s friends. The pizza was good but didn’t blow my mind. On the way back home, we went to Da Michele. Simona and I were outside debating if we should share one pizza (they’re pretty big) but a guy standing near us leaned over and said that the pizza is too good to share and we each had to have our own—enough said. The crowd standing in front waiting for a table (some for nearly 2 hours!) was so thick we could barely make our way inside. We got pushed to the front of the line since we ordered our double mozzarella margarita pizzas to go. We sat on the curb around the corner from the pizzeria to eat and OMG… BEST PIZZA EVER!! No joke.

The dough was perfectly baked, thick and spongy with a slight smoky taste from the wood burning oven, the tomato sauce was so light and simple, the cheese was unbelievably fresh and the basil seemed to take on the flavor of the olive oil they dribbled on top. Excellent. I’m plotting when I can go back to Naples— if only for the pizza. It’s totally worth the 20 Euro, 6 hour R/T train ride—its that good.

Anyway Positano: in a word, magical. It reminded me a lot of Santorini, just in a different color palatte (pretty pastel houses stacked on the side of the mountain instead of all white ones). And everyone was SO friendly and helpful. We kept saying, “Are we just deprived New Yorkers or is everyone extremely nice here?” We made friends with the owner of our pensione (the hotel has an amazing rooftop terrace with breathtaking views. One morning we woke up early to watch the sunrise),

the waiters at the restaurants, the guy at the supermarket, the deli guy, everyone. And it didn’t hurt that everywhere we went there was a group hot guys saying ciao to us and telling us how beautiful we were :) We were told we should have come during the summer but I much prefer going someplace in the off season—you’re not fighting with crowds, you can find cheap hotel deals and you get to see a place for what it really is. Plus the weather was still in the 80s so it was perfect.

We spent our days lounging around at the beachside cafes chatting with the owners, eating lemon ices on the beach and wandering around the tiny downtown area.

At night we went for long dinners at places either recommended by my Lonely Planet or by the locals. We struck out twice in the food dept—first thinking that just because we were at a beach town the seafood would be good. Second thinking it was ever a smart idea to try sushi in small town Italy… oh well.

After dinner we tried to find a bar to have drinks but apparently that doesn’t really exist there. So we just hung out on the terrace of the restaurants drinking wine and free shots of lemoncello. It was a fabulous weekend. Pos is every bit as beautiful as people say it is. We were daydreaming about leaving everything behind and moving there for good. People are happy, everyone knows each other, there’s like zero crime. And the best part is that they work for about 7 months out of the year until the winter when everything shuts down and then get to take a 5 month vacation—not a bad life.

A bit of New York in Rome...

My friend Simona arrived from New York the same day that Martine left so I’ve been pretty much nonstop all week. She’s a late sleeper so we didn’t start our day until about noon—grabbing lunch before hitting the first site. I started my month-long Italian lessons at Dante Alighieri last Monday so for 3 hours in the afternoon Simona went to check out the museums and churches while I sat in class learning how to conjugate verbs. Italian seems to be a little easier than French (with some of the same root words so I can sort of follow along) so hopefully I’ll pick up a bit before I leave here (notice I said “a bit”. I’m not as naive as when I first moved to France and thought I’d be fluent in 3 months, lol). In the evenings, Simona and I would meet up after my class, grab an aperitivo (did I mention how much I LOVE the fact that you can go to a bar, order a drink and help yourself to a free buffet spread? Genius!), go home and relax then change before our nights out.

(compliments of the chef, our new friend)

On her first night in town we met up with a new acquaintance of mine. My friend M met a lawyer from Rome (we’ll call him The Expat) at an International Meetup in Paris last year while he was working there for a few months. She put us in touch back in December when he was planning a trip to New York for New Year’s. We never met but I picked up the correspondence with him a couple weeks before I arrived in Rome. He called me on Friday night and invited Simona and I to join him and his friends for drinks at this cute bar called Salotto 42. It’s a tiny bar but when the weather’s nice, everyone stands outside in the piazza with their drinks, the crumbling façade of a huge, ancient temple as the backdrop. Finding myself in moments like that is when it really hits me: wow, I live in Rome.

(she'll be back!)

Anyway, its funny b/c when I first saw pictures of The Expat on Facebook I was not impressed. Little did I know he just doesn’t photograph well—in person he was HOT. He was sort of flirty with Simona and asked to meet up with us before she went back to NYC. In the end, we played phone tag but didn’t manage to connect with him before she left so she told me, “Stace if he tries to talk to you, totally go for it. One of us should take advantage!” (lol, did I mention that I love that girl?). I’m all for persistence and reaching out to new friends but when a guy is potential dating material I guess you have to take it a little easy. So we’ll see if he calls again…

(pizza in the Jewish Ghetto)

The next night we were at a bar in Monti, again taking our cheap carafe of house wine outside to drink when two guys approached us—one was another lawyer (aka The Lawyer) who was flirting with me and the other took a liking to Simona. Unfortunately The Lawyer doesn’t speak much English so I’m not really sure what to make of it. He also seemed a bit aloof, but one night when I asked his friend about him (he popped up at the bar for like an hour then disappeared), his friend was like, “Do you like The Lawyer?! He went home but said if you asked about him then I should call him and he would come back and join us”. Um ok. Apparently he didn’t think I was interested (hello, we can barely communicate) so he was waiting for a sign from me.
(our new friends... for the week anyway)

The following night Simona and I ran into The Lawyer randomly in the street and he invited us to join him and his friend for dinner, I declined b/c we had to be up early the next morning. And Sunday night he sent me a text asking to take me to Frascati (a small town an hour outside of Rome famous for its wine bars and restaurants) but I already had plans. I mean, he seems nice but what in the world are we supposed to do, stare at each other? He’s cute but not that cute. So again, leaving the ball in his court. We’ll see what his next move is.

On Simona’s last night in town we went to this new place called Mater Matuta in Monti. We were walking home one evening and spotted a set of stairs leading to a really cute cave like bar/restaurant. The décor is all white with huge low hanging chandeliers over the tables. And they have a small room tucked in the back with a long table that seats about 10 and looks like its set up for a formal wedding (note to self: good place for a birthday dinner). Anyway we called to make a reservation for Saturday and it turned out they were having their opening party that night—10 Euros for a sampling of all the food on their menu and unlimited prosecco. So we got dressed up and enjoyed a delicious and cheap dinner before calling it a night around 1am. She left at 9am the next morning and now I am officially on my own in Italy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apt woes

I’ve been searching in vain for an apartment for the past 2 weeks. I honestly had no idea it would be this hard. I lived in Manhattan for many years and moved around more times than I can count. Then I moved to Paris (with their equally notorious housing market) with only a place secured for a week. I moved 3 times before finally settling into my apartment in Oberkampf. It was definitely difficult and draining and stressful but nothing like this. The big problem is that I can’t give anyone a definite time frame for my stay here and no one wants to rent a room or apt to someone who will only be leaving in a couple months. I don’t want to lie and say I’ll be here for 6 months or a year when I very well could be leaving in 2 months. Reason being that my friend BB is getting married in Mexico in December and I promised her I’d come to her wedding—and I really do want to be there. So I’ll either go home just for her wedding (an expense I can’t really afford right now) and come back to Rome in the new year, or I’ll leave Rome for good in mid-December. Its all up in the air right now, it just depends on how thing go for me here.

I went to see a great apt near Argentina (a bus/tram hub in the center of the city). It’s a 3 bedroom and two black American women (one from LA, the other from Queens) live there now. They were really cool, women I would be friends with in real life. Both had come to Rome with the intent of staying a few months but have been here for about 2 years now, for various reasons. We spoke on the phone last night and they won’t be making a decision on their new roommate until they hold their second Open House next weekend—in they meantime they want to meet up for drinks this week. If I don’t get an apt out of it at least I’ll get some new friends :)

In the meantime, the old lady who owns my pensione is the sweetest thing and said that I could stay there for the month (and she would only charge me my rental budget instead of the 50 Euros/night I bargained her down to for my week long stay) if I don’t find anything else. The location isn’t too bad (between the train station and the Colosseum and within a 2 minute walk of my new favorite neighborhood, Monti) but I’m dreading living there because it just isn’t a home. There’s no proper kitchen nor is there any internet access (right now in the McDonald's 15 minutes away from the pensione using their free wifi but its loud and busy and cold and there’s no way I could come here every day and expect to get anything done) and I would have to deal with a slew of strangers coming in and out all the time. The plus side is that there is daily maid service and a free breakfast every morning. I guess things could be worse.

Anyway we’ll see. I’m still hoping I find something else but will probably stay where I’m at for at least a month… unfortunately living in a little pensione doesn’t exactly motivate me to want to stay in Rome long term.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Life in Italia

Last week my cousin Martine arrived in Paris from DC to spend a week in Europe with me. It was her first time in Italy and we were doing 4 cities in 7 days.
Thank GOD for her because I don’t know how I would have managed the move to Italy with all of my heavy suitcases (thankfully the guy at the Easyjet counter didn’t charge us for the overweight bags… sometimes flirting pays off!). We spent my final day in Paris hanging out around B’s neighborhood, Les Batignolles. On the weekends the streets are packed with people shopping at the outdoor market, reconnecting with friends and neighbors and playing with their kids. We got cotton candy in the park, had a couple beers and watched a random stage performance by some pseudo reggae band. That night we went to a party in Oberkampf before heading to B’s friend’s place to spend the night—he lives 10 mintues from Orly airport and offered (or I begged him, rather) to drive us to our 7am flight the next morning.

It’s always so hard for me to leave Paris. It has become my city: I understand how things work, I get the sourly Parisian people, I know where I’m going, I’m comfortable there. Paris is a part of me. But at the same time, I was really excited for the move to Italy. And I remember when I first arrived in Paris in 2007 I felt the same uncertainty and fear so I know that it will pass in time and that things will get easier here (sorry, getting a bit ahead of myself).

We flew into Pisa Sunday morning and took the Terravision bus to Florence where I managed to find this tiny little crap hotel near the train station. For 38 Euros/night, it was actually worth it—two people could barely stay in a hostel for that price, let alone have a private room. Florence of course was amazing, its such a beautiful city. We spent two days wandering around the little streets (finally exploring the “other” side of the Arno, much cuter than the touristy side in my opinion), eating a ridiculous amount of gelato and pasta and just lazing about watching the views.

My friend Shelby lived in Florence for about a year and spoke about the medieval town of Siena a couple times so we decided to go there for the day. Its well worth the 1 hour trip if you’re ever in Florence. We had lunch at a cute little place with just 3 picnic tables perched on the side of a hill (at one point I nearly fell off my chair and rolled down the hill) and a menu written by hand on a couple sheets of construction paper… we shared our table with a really interesting Israeli couple traveling through Italy on their honeymoon. For about 10 Euros each we had .50 liter of (delicious) house wine, an appetizer and pasta dish… I love Italy.

On Tuesday we took the train to Rome. Martine was there for just 4 more days so we did another whirlwind tour of all the famous sites. Rome is incredible no matter what your beliefs but I think as a Christian (or specifically, a Catholic in Martine’s case), it holds a special significance. Everywhere you look is thousands of years of spritiual and biblical history, its very powerful. We went to the church just outside the Walls to stand at the foot of the Holy Stairs (the stairs Christ walked on during His trial in Jerusalem when he was condemned to die) and I just spoke to Him, asking for guidance and help and strength. I don’t know what I’m doing in Rome, why I was called here, but I know this is where I'm meant to be for a while. Its difficult, this period of uncertainty, so I'm asking for patience as well. I hope to make the most of it for as long as I'm able to stay here.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I arrived in Rome from Paris on Tuesday September 29th… I'm here for no other reason than that I love this city, I love the thrill of living in foreign countries and I had the time to do it. I don’t know how long I’ll stay but I’m trying to take advantage of this opportunity and see as much of this beautiful country as I can while I’m here. We'll see how it goes!