Today is March 15th, the Ides of March, and it has been well over a month since my last post. The hiatus this time around is not due to writer’s block, it’s simply that there are not enough hours in the day. I’ve been dividing my time between teaching (score update…Miss Katie: 12, Italian 3rd Graders: 4), showing my sister around (yay for visitors!!!), keeping my New Year’s Resolution (read 1 book in English & 1 in Italian every month), and trying to speak more Italian than English every day.
However, the biggest culprit for my lack of updates is the fact that spring has sprung in Rome. Trees are blossoming, the snow has melted, the markets have strawberries on sale, roof-tanning has commenced, the flea market vendors have started selling pastel-colored clothing, and this Wanderer is twitterpated (editor’s note: if you don’t know what that means, it’s time to watch “Bambi” again). Long story short, I’ve been distracted.
However, I am still a list-maker; I have a mile-long list of topics I want to write about. They include:
- the origin of the words “cappuccino” and “graffiti”
- the Italian Grandmother
- a Carbonara recipe, courtesy of one of my students
- creative ways to make money in a down economy
- dreaming and sleep-talking in a foreign language
- the benefits of living with Art Historians
- la bella/brutta figura
- the derby
- Ostia Antica, Viterbo, Cesano, and Spoleto day trips
- International Women’s Day – Italian style
- Roman pollution control
- traffic violations & fines
- heating & gas bills
- ………….and the list grows every day
I’m not lacking in inspiration, I’m simply lacking in time. I live in one of the most spectacular cities in the world, rich with art, history, architecture, mythology…and it’s sunny and 72 degrees outside. Can you blame me for not writing? Anyway, I’ll try to be better about writing more frequently. But for now, take a look at one of the best-preserved bathrooms of ancient Rome (in Ostia Antica):
I just finished editing and uploading my favorite photos of last week’s Roman snowstorm. Check out my photo gallery: https://wanderingbychoice.com/photos/roman-snow/
I’ve taken my fair share of history courses and at this point I’ve walked through the Roman Forum and Colosseum more times than I can count. Yet I find that as I wander throughout this city, I regularly learn something fascinating about the ways of the Ancient Empire:
While walking through one of the oldest churches in Rome, we stumbled upon a wall displaying some interesting bricks from the 2nd century A.D. My roommate (an expert on all things Rome) informed me that these bricks were “stamped” for taxation purposes and were placed every 10-15 bricks in a wall. The stamp would typically indicate the name of the Brick Maker, the brickyard where it was produced, and the name of the current Roman Consul. Since the Roman Consul changed every year, these stamps have given archaeologists the ability to precisely know the date a particular structure was erected. Brilliant.
December 29th marked the 9-month anniversary of the day I left America in search of something new, something better, something a little more “me.” And 9 months later, I still have absolutely no idea what any of that actually means. But being my father’s daughter, I am a stubborn ass; I refuse to step foot back on American soil until I figure “it” out.
I’ve been in Rome now for over 4 months, and in those months I have accomplished quite a bit. I’ve mastered the public transportation system (metro, bus, tram and train), and I firmly stand behind my boss’s statement, “it’s impossible to get anywhere in less than 30 min, but you can pretty much go everywhere in an hour and a half.” I’ve scouted out the best pizza, gelato and aperitivo joints. I’ve learned the English language (and how to teach it). I’ve discovered that old Roman women have very strong opinions about wearing scarves and socks once the weather turns cold (more on this later). And most importantly, I’ve become a local – I am part of a community in this crazy city.
While I love the culture, cuisine, and chaos of urban life, after a while it sucks the energy out of me. I am the sort of person who can’t walk for too long on pavement before it wears me down; and apparently cobblestones are no exception. I have always been connected to nature; in order to recharge and maintain clarity, I need open space, fresh air, the smell of pine, and the sound of silence. During the past few months, I’ve been so preoccupied with getting myself set up that I forgot to seek out my retreat, and that lack of “me time” was really starting to weigh heavily.
So with that in mind, I decided to celebrate my 9-month anniversary with a day trip to one of the small towns outside of Rome. As I am officially in the business of not making plans, my approach to a “non-plan” for a day trip went something like this:
- Look at a map.
- Find small towns around Rome, preferably on the regional train line.
- Pick one that looks familiar (or throw a dart, whichever is least likely to result in injury)
- Wake up earlier than 9am and go to the train station.
No plan, no research, no agenda. Wandering at its finest.
The Choice: Frascati.
Things I Knew about Frascati:
- Most vini della casa – house wines – in Roman restaurants are from this area
- There is apparently a local obsession with Porchetta, no idea why.
Wine and Pork? Okay, twist my arm.
A 30-minute train ride and 1.90 euro later, I found myself in a quiet town perched high in the hills southeast of Rome. Frascati is darling – local artisans sell their goods along the main street, alleyways wind into small piazzas, locals take an afternoon stroll at what seems to be a snail’s pace. And best of all, waiters & restaurant owners don’t hassle you claiming that theirs is the “best pasta/panino/pizza/gelato… in town.”
Life in Frascati appears to be a bit more mellow and peaceful, not unlike what I experienced in Lucca over the summer. It’s the way of life that we Americans always have in our mind when we think of Italy: la Dolce Vita e Dolce Far Niente – the sweet life and the sweetness of doing nothing. Frascati was precisely the breath of fresh mountain air that I’ve been craving; I can now say that I’ve found my retreat from Rome.
Nine months and still going strong: Onward!
Oh, the wine and porchetta were both phenomenal = Happy Katie.
Buon Natale from the heart of the Catholic Church (photo above: Jesus & his posse on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica)
Via dei Condotti is by far the most expensive street in Rome. It is where the Armani, Gucci, Fendi and Prada mannequins face off, looking as if they’ve just stepped off the runway (and yes, they are judging you for your knock-off jeans/purse/boots/whatever).
However, on the first Saturday of December, it welcomes visitors of all brands and sizes to participate in the festivities as it kicks off the holiday shopping season, complete with the Carabinieri (military police) marching band. The shops collectively choose a particular company as their “theme” for decorations; Mercedes-Benz has that honor this year.
Over 400 stores around the historic center have chosen to participate in “Roma in Luce” – Rome in Lights – and the city simply spectacular. With chestnuts roasting on every corner, Christmas trees in every piazza, and mulled wine offered at aperitivo, it’s hard not to be in the Christmas spirit.
Wandering Photo of the Day: a commuter’s sunset
I suppose a work commute to the suburbs isn’t so bad when you have a beautiful sunset like this welcoming you on your way back home…
Monte Mario. A quartiere – neighborhood – in the northern part of Rome. Its train station is along the regional line connecting the Centro Storico – historic center – to the surrounding neighborhoods of Rome. It also serves to transport this Wanderer to the houses of her students.