Walking through Villa Doria Pamphilli

Kevin and I had already been to the Villa Doria Pamphili, but it’s a nice walk around anyway and I would recommend it to anyone outdoorsy or is looking to escape the chaos of the city. One day, the two of us decided to take the tram 8 all the way down to the end of the line from Piazza Venezia (a proper top of the line to the end of the line journey). It was an interesting ride to say the least. One definitely comes into contact with the citizens on the tram more than what the usual sidewalk provides, nothing short of a discotech on tram 8 at times as far as personal space goes. My stomach that’s already full of pizza gets achy from the squeezing along with partially eating the hat of the guy in front of you. Thankfully the space graduated from a sardine can to a half pack of tic-tacs after Piazza Belli. Kevin and I grabbed a seat towards the front that were oddly emptyThinking about our destination, it’s impressive to think that the Villa itself is indeed Rome’s largest public park. The park has a turtle laden lake, boundless

Treesumbrella pines, and junglesque pathways where clever velociraptors will surely attack a most unfortunate jogger. We tended to shy away from those areas.

In addition, there are large open fields where intense battles took place when Italy’s future first king was first starting to subjugate the land. The battle was particularly fought against French settlers and Garibaldi’s army. One such famous injury was to the dismay of Goffredo Mameli. Dying just two months shy of his 22nd birthday, he had helped sustain the future unification of Italy and also interestingly composed the national anthem, as the world knows it today. There are two stories around his death specifically: one being the accidental injury to his left leg by a comrade’s bayonet or the more supported story of being gunned down by French occupants. Either way, due to infection the injury called for his left leg to get amputated, which resulted in his premature death.

At the beginning of the tour, we met up with Chris the On Site coordinator we have here to make sure that our shoes are tied and that any lost luggage eventually comes back to us. In fact, thanks to Romina, Justin, and Chris I managed to get my lost bag back to me without having to travel all the way back to the airport. Two girls from the American University of Rome joined us too along with Julia, another intern from Colorado! Chris brought with him a backpack full of the “essentials” as he puts it along with a soccer ball with dozens of flags from around the world printed on the synthetic exterior.

We started walking through the tranquil Monteverde neighborhood to get to the Villa at 5:45PM. During this time you can hear all the locals rushing in their banged up FIATs to get home alongside the squawking seagulls darting toward the fruit peels left by litterbugs in the park. The walk was short, about 15 minutes from the park in front of the office to get to the main gate. You get inside and the first thing you see is a sign written Battaglione della Speranza. Chris was recounting the history of the French settlers in the area and how the walkway we were on was called the path of the gigantic battle of hope. After the entrance we stopped to grab some ice-cold water that bountifully flows from the city fountains.

Lately the city has been getting a lot of bad press about how poor the internal services are, with that in mind I am thankful that at least the water fountains function. Even the dogs come running for them!

UmbrellaWe started heading through the dirt path past sweaty joggers and sunbathers lying unsettlingly still at times. “It’s so hot!” sighs one of the AUR girls. Chris looks at her with a “give me a break” look on his face and says unapologetically, “It is indeed hot, but it is summer-time and it’s definitely not the Metro B”. I guess he was right to a given extent. It is July on the Mediterranean after all. Fortunately, with plenty of cold water, a little sunscreen, and light clothing it is genuinely not that bad. I will be honest though, nothing beats the cool waves on the beach of Santa Marinella these days.

To our joy, walking around the Villa Pamphili offers a Steven Speilberg’s Independence Day spaceship amount of shade. Translated: There is a lot of shade. The Villa hosts palm trees as well which gives the landscape a quintessential Mediterranean feel next to the large palace in Casino del Bel Respiro. The palace sits in front of a large courtyard like a nucleus surrounded by walls decorated with mosaics and statues. Taking in the image of the palace from the front is one of time travel. The structure oozes opulence and drips with patina. If those walls could talk, I have a feeling that we would be camping out and listening to an epic!

The gardens outside of the structure are gated to the public but viewable past the walled barrier. Each hedge is carefully groomed to create spiraling images that resemble green clouds being gently pushed from the epicenter.Bel Respiro Dani said she wanted to live there while Carolina said that was too excessive and that she should just have the wedding reception there and then head back to Florida! As for me, the preservation was good enough and the silence of the inside just made it all the more enjoyable. Excuse me while I grab my cane and tell people to get off my lawn.

As we hiked up the stairs from the courtyard we came across a large open field that overlooked the remainder of the first half of the park. In all parts there were soccer players, furry ball-fetchers, runners, trainers, and picnics. We continued down through the shady parts of the park on the eastern side. I heard rustling in the bushes as we walked through. The sound was of what seemed to be mid-sized animal, perhaps the length of a raccoon come to think of it I have yet to see a squirrel here. Don’t worry though! There were no velociraptors in sight, yet.

All of a sudden, a brilliant hue of green swooped into the air out of the bush followed by another bright flash of emerald. “Parrots!” yelled Kevin. The two birds were zinging and zanging through the air, nose-diving and barrel-rolling as if to out maneuver the other. “I had no idea there were parrots around here! All I see are pigeons around our area. Eating, pooping, and trying to get some with the girl pigeons”, says Carolina. “I know! They are so weird” responds Julia.

Biology class here: essentially, when male pigeons want to attract the attention of the female, they will pump their chest up and dance around; typically in the same manner every time (circle spins and ducking up and down). I have yet to see this maneuver produce any results for the dancers though.

After the parrots we came across a proper sized pond filled to the brim with white geese, snapping turtles, and ducks with their ducklings. Fortunately there were benches spread throughout the area to take in the awe-struck travelers to gaze with “calma” as Alessandro puts it. We retired to the benches and allowed the scene to unfold.

Time passes as the sun lazily sank beneath the impending tree line of the towersome umbrella pines.Meditation The strums of a guitar were faintly heard in the distance. The calm damp air was full with sounds of quacks, splashes, and little kids laughing as they tossed pieces of stale bread in the pond. Chris and Kevin passed the soccerball back and forth to each other. “Don’t kick the Greece part too hard Kevin! It might deflate the ball” Chris shouted. The group playfully chuckled given the recent news from last week. Funny or oddly enough, Rome has been getting a lot of bad press as well for being one of the worst countries in Europe to live in as far as quality of life goes. Perhaps I have not been here long enough to truly jump on board with this message, but besides minor inconveniences it’s nothing grave to the point of making me want to leave. TurtleWhere else can you find ancient history dating back to the 1600s in a national park right outside of your apartment while being able to grab a gelato? Not to mention, on average Italians work 35 hours a week giving more time to family and get 5 weeks of vacation mandatorily.

My mind drifts back to the lake. Groups of people with their dogs sauntered by as the minutes unnoticeably drifted away. Peace engulfs. We must’ve passed twenty minutes by that lake mouth agape just pondering. I got up and got closer to the water. There were turtles all over the place, when from the corner of my eye I spot a giant white fish. The girth was one of an overfilled barrel with eyes as black as onyx. Just drifting along without a care in the world. Blub*

Eventually, we arose from our meditative states and circled the rest of the pond. Geese could be noticed guiding their offspring and the snapping turtles just swam on top of each other. All of a sudden, THUD! The scream “Owwwwwww” howled through the pathway. I think I saw a goose get startled too. Dani tripped over a rock and ended up scrapping her knee very lightly. Fortunately Chris and his “essentials” were on the job. He had that scrape washed and patched up quicker than most nurses I’ve seen. “After three years as lifeguard you can’t leave without these”. Dani quickly got up and we kept on towards the original entrance. End Scene. See more photos of the trip here!

Visit to the Testaccio Market

Loading…..New Message….Invitation: Testacccio Market Visit Friday @ 10:30AM. I smile at Chris’ confidence that the rest of the students and interns are going to roll out of bed at a frankly reasonably hour to make it to this activity. It had precisely what I was looking for at the time: food, food, food, and a good excuse to get off my computer from playing Hearthstone even though I just got Deathwing. Look out Justin, I’m coming for you. Kevin and I both RSVP to accept.

We exited out of the apartment into the thick baking Roman air Friday morning. When we get to the good ol’ Trastevere Bingo, we count two other interns waiting for us. Both Cinthia and Julia were waiting for Chris. “Is it just us?” asked Julia. “It appears to be” I respond. Next comes one sweaty Chris jogging down the street. Smiling, “hi guys, we all here?” as he cheerfully prances down the walkway. “All set to go? It’s 10:30!” he says enthusiastically. “You betcha” goes Kevin. I swear, he must mix fairy dust into his coffee to be so springy in the morning.

We move over toward the Carlo Porta bus stop while the cars, mopeds, and trams clamber their way to get to their destinations on the royal Viale Trastevere: the street of all streets here in the neighborhood. You can find essentially everything you would need here: pharmacies, grocery stores, coffee shops, loads of local bars, retail stores and comes complete with a train station! We took the German approach and waited for the signal to turn green before passing the venerated via; a practice that I should get more in the habit of.

We made our way to the bus stop to see a new electronic tabella! The automated computer screen will tell you which buses are on their way along with the wait time before their arrival. This was a big deal for Chris. He exclaimed that we needed to take the 719 and sure enough it was on the top of the list. Five minutes..five minutes. The longest/most pestersome things we have to wait for in this existence always seem to take a dreaded five minutes. Which of course is 20 minutes or a lifetime. I think the key to Italian longevity is that these annoying things are portrayed to take short amount of time, while in reality they take a lifetime. The locals here truly believe that these things will come at once, but they are just constantly waiting until they reach 100. Ask the Sardinians they know the secret. Sure enough the tabella had the 719 skip us two rounds. Chris explains that this is just Italy working within its nature. The bus miraculously appears around the corner after about three buses and Saturn pass by. The doors open up and fresh cold air spills out onto us. “Let me on!” shouts Kevin. The doors close and we were off.

The red ATAC buses are the newer models as opposed to the gray ones. There is more standing space and there is almost always AC blasting. For me, I usually just take the 75 of which I have a love/hate relationship with. Regardless, taking the 719 is like staying in the Bellagio hotel in comparison to the dingy 75. The ride was as short as a corgi’s tail. Took less about 5 minutes to arrive at the destination…suspiciously.

Before we enter in, I notice that the building was actually quite modern; large, square, and white. Chris explained that nearly 100% of all energy consumed was produced by solar panels from up above. We started right into it by walking through the ultra clean pathways in between all of the different kiosks. There were fruit stands, vegetable kiosks, even shoes stores, and a place that sold hand-made purses and wallets out of recycled comic books and newspaper.

Chris had mentioned that the market was the cheapest place to buy shoes. He wasn’t kidding either! 20 euro for a pair of flats, made in Italy. A very reasobable for the responsible shopper! There were close to 100 different kiosks all with their own friendly and helpful staff. “Ok, let’s find Box #89, Alimentari di Lazzerini”, said Chris. “Sounds good, as long as we eat something”, I thought. The market was overloaded with smells of ripe fruit, cheap leather, fresh cheese, and hot coffee. It was an assault to the olfactory complex, life as a dog must be torture with all these scents around. We continued going down aisle after aisle with what seemed to be a rather disorganized mode of setting up the kiosks. We would pass 37 to 45 to 46 to 61. We finally made it all the way to #88 to find that #89 was nowhere in sight. “Ok Kevin, you’ve been here for over a month now. Time to practice your stuff”, Chris exclaimed. Kevin shrugged and looked at the ground really quickly but mustered up the confidence and approached one of the guys behind kiosk #85. “Scusi signore, un’informazione. Dov’è numero ottantanove? Si chiamano Alimentari di Lazzerini”, Kevin asked. Thank you Prof. Silvia for your help on this one. To our dismay the master of #85 gives out a large, “Boh” (translates to a simple “I don’t know”) and we were left without a clue. “Dai ragazzi, let’s find another place, it’s not like there is a food shortage in here” says Chris aka Virgil incarnate.

We got to a fruit stand where there were three young guys and a gentleman who appeared to be the father. All the locals shoppers were swarming around these guys, it looked as if they were renting two boxes in the market! I think they may have had the largest variety of produce in the entire market too! Chris grabbed half of a melon, kiwi, grapes, and cherries. It was cool to see him go in the back of the kiosk as if he had already been there before. Before we knew it, we had slices of melon in our hands and the frenzy began. The five of us went through all the fruit as were discussing our shopping tendencies. I mentioned that I lived in a pretty small town and that we did have one farmers’ market go on every Saturday throughout the year. Italy is about 71% the size of California with about 59 million people as the population. Given that the majority of food here is produced here in Italy, it’s like a localvore’s dream here. It would be like living in California and all the food you eat comes from the state.

We did some more walking around and sat in the sun-filled epicenter of the market. It was about 11:30 and the sun beamed down on our heads. Chris said for us to hang on a minute as he dashed away into the kiosk maze. We continued chatting about grocery shopping and how it made us feel more independent while we were living here. Personally, I find grocery shopping to be somewhat therapeutic. You are literally walking around actively investing into your survival. We all have the biological instinct to eat and drink so when we go out and shop I can only imagine we are tapping into this drive, even though it is very much separated from our distant ancestors. As much as I would be down to shoot a wild boar with an arrow during a coffee break, I don’t think I will see one walking around the Monteverde neighborhood.

Chris returned with pears and a white crumbly cheese in hand. “This is pecorino romano”, Chris explained. It was a light absorbing off-white chalky color. He took a plastic knife and divided it all up and passed the pears out. “Try them together,” he says with a mischievous grin on face. I almost didn’t trust him until it hit me. Now, I’m no food connoisseur but it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that eating these two foods together produces oral fireworks of flavor. I must be frankly though, the grapes with the cheese, no so good in my opinion.

Pear

From here we went to the main event of the day, Mordi e Vai. Super close to the entrance, Mordi e Vai is tough to miss especially with the aromatic forces it was producing. The logo of the restaurant was nothing related to reality. Their munching mascot was an anthropomorphic mouth with eyeballs and blue sneakers jogging towards what I am guessing was the delicious food or whichever objective he had in mind at the time. They had loads of different options, sausage, spicy beef, artichokes and eggplants, lamb, and meatballs; all of them coomeatking within their own sauce. Chris then explained that these were all fillings with their homemade bread. Chris went first. “Un bulito, per favore”. The man behind the counter skewered a chunk of meat that was soaking in the seasoned broth. The man cut 3 hefty slices, dunked half of the bread in the juice, threw some chicory on top, completed the assembly with the other piece of bread and then handed it right over. His eyes rolled back

in his head upon the first bite. I could smell the sandwich from where I was standing too. I had to get the same thing. “Un panino bulito per me, grazie!”, I shakily say. The guy behind the counter chuckles and begins the prSandwichocess. Chris then blurts out “Piú succo!”. I didn’t know what he meant until I saw the man behind the counter fully submerge both pieces of bread into the broth. My mouth instantly entered into waterfall mode. The first bite was one of a delicious meaty sponge. The only thing it was missing at that point was my bed to pass out in due to a gastrocoma coming on.

Satiated, we waddled from the sandwich king’s palace over to Scaramura to grab some gelato. “There is always room for gelato”, laughed Julia. “Noooooo there’s no room”, said Cinthia. “You gotta make room!”, Kevin responded. We approached the counter and saw a glass-lined freezer the size of a sarcophagus full of homemade treats in jars. Hand-made gelato were stacked like honeycombs all displaying their unique flavors to the viewer: tiramisu, agrumi, fragola, cacao, even a birramisu! My stomach lining was already pushing critical max at that point so I just had a bite of Kevin’s birramisù which did not really taste like beer at all! After the dolce we headed back over to the MACRO center to take the bus back to home base. More photos can be viewed here!

End Scene.

Santa Marinella Beach Trip

Loading….New Email….Invitation: Day trip to the Beach RSVP Soon!! Coming from an area that is far away from the beach, I’m in awe thinking that the ocean is within an hour-long train ride from my apartment. The invitation languidly sits on my computer screen. On the weekends in Colorado, my friends and I would typically go hiking, spend our money frivolously on unneeded luxuries, and then get into arguments about Peyton Manning and how the Denver Nuggets won’t make it to the championship, sorry Gallinari.

Kayak - Castel GandolfoConsidering the last activity Romina planned was very fun at Castel Gandolfo and the hot Roman air was beginning to get rather annoying, why the heck not? Time to fill the daypack and take up Justin’s invitation to head on over to Santa Marinella.

The fact that we live in the Trastevere neighborhood makes traveling around to the neighboring cities and towns a cakewalk. With the trusty Roma Trastevere station, adventure is at our fingertips. My roommate and I met up with Justin and Chris the two of the On-Site Coordinators in case you were wondering early Friday morning. The air was already thick with the Mediterranean heat while the Fiats and motorinos whizzed by us with a vengeance. Kevin my roommate goes, “Brah, you think we’ll make it back in time to play some Hearthstone?”

“Kevin, we haven’t even left yet and you’re already thinking about what we are going to do at the end of the day! Just chill and don’t forget to put on sunscreen. You burn faster than gasoline”, I reply. I’m no better to be honest, I put on SPF 80 practically everyday to keep my self from catching fire.

Chris and Justin guide the two of us through the ticket purchasing process. With the Trenitalia machines, it’s practically unnecessary to wait in line to speak with the live person if you can ever find them when they are open! We hop on the train and the ride is filled with yacky locals and sunflower filled vistas. I try to understand what the people are saying around me, but to the avail of my three years of high school Spanish, my efforts rendered fruitless. Justin and Chris constantly talk to the locals here. I must say though, thanks to Silvia our awesome Italian teacher, I was able to pick up that the two peoples’ names were Laura and Giovanni and that they were from Naples. Their conversation was filled with laughter and intrigue. I wish I studied the language more. After seeing Chris and Justin, you can tell that the culture truly blossoms when you can speak the language.
Girasoli

We arrive at our stop and are then gently motivated by the trampling locals behind us to GET OFF THE TRAIN ASAP! You would’ve thought there was rabid dog in the coach. There is a passion here for family, food, style, and the lesser known: entering and exiting all means of public transportation.

After a brief walk past the “Monkey Bar”, we were in what looked like to be a horseshoe shaped lagoon filled with sunbathers, sand castles, sea-soaked swimmers, smokers and something that smelled delicious the latter two are practically omnipresent here in Rome. “Quanto costa per questi ombrelloni?” asks Chris to the bearded guy who looked in charge. “I think he’s just trying to get the cheapest umbrellas around”, murmured Kevin. I took a look at the rich red color umbrellas and the stabile stretchy beach chairs and said, “Dude, let’s hope these chairs are the cheapest ones because this sand is scorching my feet!” To my relief, we got them: two sun-shielding umbrellas and four chairs for each of us.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe stretched out, applied more sunscreen, and took in the surroundings. You could tell this beach was very popular amongst locals as you could let’s say see “the local fashion” amongst its visitors. Guys in speedos and minimally clothed women almost everywhere you looked. All apart of the local culture I suppose. I did not feel too overdressed since a lot of guys our age there wore mostly the swim trunks that I’m used too. “I think I’ll get a speedo too one day while we are here!” chuckled Kevin. I put my palm to my face, “That thing will never see the light of day once we go back to Colorado”. All the power to him though, I must say I do respect his drive to take on local customs even if he risks turning into a tomato on even more parts of his body.Sdraiato sul lettino

After about an hour of reading Game of Thrones my skin was already starting to feel medium rare. Kevin and I made it into the refreshing seawater after sprinting across the lava sand. Too bad politicians cannot be as transparent as the water is here. I was already up to my neck and I could still see my toes! I turn around and I see Kevin stopped with the water level above his thighs and below his torso. He’s hesitant. “Just jump in Kev! Get it over with quickly and it won’t be that bad!” I shout. “Nooooooo…..” whines Kevin. I leave him to contemplate over his life decisions that led him up to this predicament of getting used to the water.

Eventually Kevin made it in all the way and we tossed the Frisbee around that Chris brought. The wind must have picked it up when I threw it because it went into a crowd of people nearly knocking over someone’s beverage in the sand. I’ll admit I am not the best thrower in the world so all the blame cannot go to the wind.

A little further out into the distance, seaside rocks were visible as if to blockade the beach Scoglio - Santa Marinellafrom any impending danger that lurks below. The rocks were easily accessible and we could even see people chilling out on them. “Chris! You wanna swim out there?” I ask. He told me before what he and another student did during the Castel Gandolfo Day Trip. Knowing that, there’s no way he will pass this one up. “Sure, let’s do it!” Chris says. He gave his cellphone to Justin and pleaded with him to put more sunscreen on. Justin remained steadfast that he did not need any. Defeated, Chris put his belongings in his daypack and started toward the water with Kevin and I.

The journey began. After running track and even the occasional 5k, I still got pretty tired rather fast to my chagrin. I kept at it, even at a slow pace. From the shore, the distance looked like it was pretty close, but after a subsequent Google map search I learned it was a little over a 100 meter stretch. Chris made it to the rocks first and kept his eye on Kevin and I, as we Vertical shot Santa Marinellawere getting closer. He even had lifeguard shorts on making his demeanor even more comical. After reaching the rocks, we were able to climb right up and see out into the distance. I figured if you took a kayak and went straight down, you would run into some islands off of Sicily or eventually into Tunisia. After thinking about the 5 euro per half hour rate for the kayaks here, I concluded that this venture might not be the most cost effective.

The three of us struck up a conversation with a lady who happened to be from the USA. She was with her husband, three sons, and two daughters. We laid out on the sun-cooked rocks with the saltwater still clinging to us. The friendly lady cheerfully asked us whereabouts we were all from. For some reason Chris is strangely proud to be from Massachusetts as he bantered on and on about skiing and changing seasons. Kevin and I say that we were from Colorado and her eyes lit up. “No way, we’re from Boulder!” she exclaimed.

I typically take people whom I meet everyday back at home for granted, but I must say that meeting someone on a random beach outside of Rome from the same state is something special.

We talk about the fresh air, the mountains, and of course the XXXXX. We learned her name was Michelle and that she was 49 years old. We asked her what she would tell herself if given a chance to speak with herself at the age of 21. She answers, “Take care of yourself health wise. I do not have large regrets I would tell myself to avoid…. Not a day goes by though where I am not thankful for my health, especially after seeing others my age who cannot do many of the activities that we’ve grown accustomed to in our youth.

Splash! One of Michelle’s sons jumps off of the rock and dives right into the water toward the shoreline. “C’mon Michelle!”, screams the son. At the time, I thought it was rather strange her kid called her by her first name. “That’s my cue” Michelle goes as she skips and launches off the rock face into the sea. Her and her sons all swam together like ducks in a pond. Kevin hung out and pondered at the important affairs of the local sea urchins as Chris caught some rays. As the sun started to strengthen we decided to head on back to camp. The tide gave us a boost back making the swim a bit easier.Group Shot - Santa Marinella

We returned to find Justin under the umbrella eating what looked to be the best gelato ever at the time. Chris proceeded to take us up to the same gelato place with sunscreen promptly residual on my hands. The guy working the gelato could not have been older than 16. I ask for a cup of banana and cioccolato fondente everybody learns the gelato flavors really quick here of course. I must say, it was one of the worst flavored gelatos I had ever tasted since being here. The banana they used must’ve had relations with a lemon gone astray but the cold treat was refreshing all the same.

We hastily go back to the chairs with the lava sand sticking to our feet. Jump ahead a lazy half an hour of napping we made it back on the train and pretty soon Kevin and I are back at the apartment. Salty hair and crispy skin we both made it back without a burn, thankfully. Unfazed, Kevin starts complaining that the game developers have interrupted Hearthstone and that he cannot access it on his computer. That’s fine by me, we both have unfinished papers to write. Thank you Chris and Justin for showing us a great time!