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Tag: Ricci Scholars Program

Cinque Terre, Salty Beards, and Jellyfish

Cinque Terre, Salty Beards, and Jellyfish

Despite its amazing potential to be the name of a low-budget Kung Fu movie, turns out Cinque Terre is just 5 gorgeous towns along the coast of the clear, blue Tyrrhenian sea with delicious and copious amounts of seafood. Total. Bummer.

Nevertheless, Cinque Terre this past weekend was utterly stunning. In an unofficial poll I took of my friends who went with me, we all gave it a thumbs-up which is as official a promotion seven college students can give a place. The weather was perfect with a ton of sun when we went out on the boat and enough clouds on the other days to give the appearance of a stormy day at sea without it actually being a stormy day at sea. In true sea fashion, our Air BNB was a boat in the La Spezia harbor where we watched sunrises over coffee, waved to many tourists going on boat tours, and watched a man in yellow pants non-stop dance in front of his boat. In short, it was all I could ask for.

To elaborate, we spent the first day out on our boat going around the coast of Cinque Terre and the second day wandering through the five lands. During our boat ride, our captain Piedro told us about the history of the place while taking us to hidden waterfalls and offering us fresh pesto pizza and rice cakes. Mixed with a little bit of cheap prosecco and I felt like I was living the high life. I even was lucky enough to get a ton of salt in my beard from swimming. Each one of us on the trip agreed that we had not done something so relaxing in a long time.

The next day was my personal favorite and most anticipated: a journey through Cinque Terre. We started by heading out to the furthest town, Monterosso, where we climbed rocks and faraglioni, chowed on some streetza (my term for “street pizza”), and walked along the beach. From there, we continued to Vernazza where we had some gelato, found a cave of rock towers, and met some French people who very kindly let us pet their dog. We then found ourselves in the high and hidden town of Corniglia whose tall alleys and views hidden under leaves gave us an entirely different experience. Next, we arrived at Manarola in the late afternoon as the sky was beginning to turn golden and the buildings colors began to shine. Finally, we ended in Riomaggiore to watch the sunset on the rocks and eat some delicious seafood.

The real highlight of the trip, however, was when we returned to Manarola the next day to swim and relax before returning to Rome. The morning began warm and sunny, but by the time we reached Manarola, the sky had turned gray and a slight drizzle was falling. We were not about to let a little bit of rain ruin our plans, however. To the surprise of a fair number of other tourists, we jumped off the rocks into the cold water as the rain fell from above. Shortly thereafter, the clouds began to part and the midday sun shone again on the colorful buildings of Manarola. Although our swim was unfortunately interrupted by a few rude jellyfish who decided to sting one of my friends, the day made up for it with some fried calamari and tons of laughter on the rocky port of Manarola.

When I woke up this morning after the trip, I began to realize how surreal all of it now seems. It was literally yesterday, but Cinque Terre was so beautiful and so relaxing that it feels worlds away from the return to schoolwork. And yet, I can’t get the way the sun hit the buildings at sunset or the jokes made with my friends or the way the lemony calamari tasted on my salt-covered lips. I wish I could return to the oasis, but I had some great moments to remember years from now and that’s pretty much the same thing.

A Clear Day

A Clear Day

These past two weeks in Rome, I really feel like I’ve begun to take my own advice to heart and have found a way to start making Rome my city. The little map that I downloaded at the start of the semester is already filling up with a ton of gelato places, bars, museums, parks, and other spots around Rome that I’ve visited and want to remember. One of my favorites so far has been Villa Borghese; the giant grassy park reminds me both of the Metroparks back home in Cleveland and Millenium Park back home in Chicago. I can easily take some work there, just relax, and find myself lost in a new city.

These past weeks have also started to get really immersing. I started my internship at the American Academy in Rome where I’m working with the Fototeca Unione project building up a Digital Humanities database for researchers and fellows at the American Academy. The work is interesting, and I enjoy finding out more about Roman monuments and sites in Rome, but the best part has actually been the walk back from the Academy. After long days of practicing Italian and working alongside other researchers, I walk down Via Garibaldi on the Janiculum Hill (usually to the sound of Jon Bellion) and take in the marvelous overlook of Rome. Each look – especially as the sun sets – is as miraculous as the one before it. I just want to explore all of Rome’s maze.

And yet, despite how strong that feeling is when I walk down the Janiculum, I almost spent this weekend in. I had a rather exhausting week full of trips across town for my internship, trips across town for on-site classes, trips across town for my research… There were a lot of trips across town, okay? My legs did not want to walk another step. Luckily, I’ve made some great friends who refuse ever to let me rest. On Friday, I found myself in Trastevere experiencing some more of Rome’s nightlife: going for apertivo at Freni e Frizioni, having a chocolate shot at Rivendita, and wandering around the alleys with great company. Eventually, we were sitting down on the stairs of Piazza Trilussa drinking some wine and listening to some street musicians; it was definitely more exciting than a night in.

The next day, we took a trip out to Anzio – a little beach town to the south of Rome – to get some proper relaxation in. It’s not well pictured (mostly because I was not about to take my phone into the water), but the water at Anzio is so clear! There are caves and cliffs along the sides of the beach which made my adventurous spirit so happy! We swam, we explored, we tanned (and burned), but the clear skies kept me happy. Everything in Rome and around it forces you to slow down and I’m really starting to like it. A beach “afternoon” really becomes a beach day, a “lunch” with coworkers becomes a long conversation over coffee, and a “trip across town” becomes a night of sightseeing and great food. Even now, as I’ve settled down, I’m already looking forward to my next clear day out in the city.

Trying to be less American

Trying to be less American

After one long flight from Chicago to Rome, a week of jetlag, a weekend in the Italian region of Umbria, and a brief period of lost luggage, I can finally (hopefully) say that I have settled into Roma at the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC).

It’s been a whirlwind of a week filled with gelato, glasses (or maybe bottles) of red wine, and practicing Italian, but I am so excited to be in Rome for this next semester during my year abroad. I can vividly remember the study abroad information session during Loyola Weekend in my senior year of high school when I first heard about the Ricci Scholars Program. The Ricci Program allows me to do cross-cultural research between Rome, Italy, and Beijing, China. From the first moment I heard about it, I knew I wanted to participate but it feels slightly surreal now that I am actually in Rome preparing to research changes in labor law and labor organization over the past half-century.

Not going to lie, the amount of work I’m staring down for this semester and the upcoming year has me feeling a little bit stressed. How am I supposed to balance my work while trying to soak up this whole experience? Last week, every night felt like a choice between being abroad and studying abroad. I was either back at the JFRC reading and working or I was out in Rome – a beautiful city – exploring all of its nooks and crannies. Every turn around the corner was a whole new adventure… but it also felt like I was shaking off my work.

This past weekend in Umbria, however, really helped me to realign myself and my goals for this semester. At first, I was upset that I would lose a whole weekend of either exploring or studying. Yet, as we traveled from city to city in Umbria, as we saw all these hidden gems of Italy, it forced me to slow down and realize that all of last week – in trying to immerse myself fully into my semester abroad – I was completely failing at immersing myself fully into my semester abroad. That fast-paced desire to experience everything, to do everything is so utterly American. This semester is about learning from Italian history and culture, and that means not just walking through a piazza but stopping in it, not just looking at a statue but reading up on it, and not just doing some research but actually learning from it. And why shouldn’t I stop and stare for a while? Every part of this country is beautiful.

And I know that no amount of speaking Italian, eating gelato, or learning about Italy this semester in Rome will be able to make me Italian, but maybe – if I let it – it can make me a little less American.