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A castle, a gelateria, a Parmesean bowl, and a few piazzas (a long-overdue update)

A castle, a gelateria, a Parmesean bowl, and a few piazzas (a long-overdue update)

I’ve had two action-packed weekends and a two weeks of classes since my last update! Time really got away from me, so I’ll split it into two posts. Alas, here’s part one:

One highlight of the week before last was going out with a friend on what would have otherwise been a dull Tuesday. We spent a little bit of time walking around St. Peter’s Basilica, but then meandered down the street to Castel San Angelo. By the time we got halfway to the top of the castle, the sun was setting across from the Tiber River. It was as magnificent as anything you could imagine. Someone was playing guitar, a young Italian man was playing with a dog, people were casually walking around without a care in the world, light from the setting sun and streetlights just turning on were reflecting off the water…and I was standing in a castle. When we reached the top it was dark outside, and we got to see the whole city lit up. But more importantly, from the top of the castle, we spotted a crowd gathering around what could only have been Ed Sheeran — he was on tour in Rome that night!

Okay, realistically, it was just a large group of tourists gathering to take a picture. But I like to believe it was my pal Ed.

The view from Castel San Angelo
The view from Castel San Angelo

Later that night, we had a dish called Cacio e Pepe at Sparta Roma in Trastevere. It’s tagliolini (a type of pasta) served in a bowl made entirely of Parmesan. And, yes, you can eat the Parmesan. Best believe I did. I also highly recommend the tiramisu! We had the pleasure of dining next to a Korean-Canadian student named Elvis, who has long dark hair, wore a Misfits hat, and told us about how he’s traveling the world.

Another exciting thing that happened two weeks ago was attending the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Church of St. Ignatius, Loyola’s patron saint. The church, like everything else here, was stunning (I’m quickly running out of adjectives). There were “fake” domes painted on the ceiling, made very convincing through optical illusion. For this reason I spent a lot of time looking upwards during mass…which is totally appropriate in a religious setting, if you think about it. The sheer size of the church, still with so much attention to detail and symmetry, was unlike anything I’ve seen before.

While many people went on their first trips, I spent last weekend exploring Rome.

On Friday, a friend (shout-out to Val!) helped me discover my favorite gelateria in the neighborhood: Il Pelicano. For the past week I’ve found a way to incorporate it into nearly every conversation. I’m telling you, it’s nothing short of divine. It’s not enough to say that the flavors are wonderfully rich and creamy. The gelato is dipped (dipped!) in chocolate (chocolate!!) and nuts, and topped with whipped cream.

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Gelato from Il Pelicano


After we indulged in the divine, Val and I were taken under the wing of an American student named Grace who attends a nearby university. She guided us to Via Del Corso by way of the Metro, where we popped in and out of stores until finally we reached Piazza del Popolo at sunset. A guy was playing the electric guitar in the middle of everyone bustling around, a tall Egyptian Obelisk towered over the scene, and it felt like we had just discovered this incredible secret that’s been hidden from the outside world. Piazza del Popolo truly feels like the “People’s Piazza” – not necessarily a piazza for tourists, who so many of the other piazzas seem to serve.

We ventured to a lookout above Popolo called Piazza Napoleone and were rewarded with a serene view of the city. The clouds had parted just enough for us to see the sun setting directly behind the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. I could faintly make out the tune of “Stairway to Heaven” being played in the piazza below. “TI AMO” — “I love you” — was sprayed in giant black letters on a sidewalk. I reflected on how I’d started my day with absolutely no plan in mind, yet we hadn’t gotten lost for a single moment. And I realized that’s the secret to adventure: If you don’t have any idea where you’re going, you can’t get lost.

That revelation somewhat eases the pain of the fact that I also have no idea what I’m going to do for the rest of my life (yay college years!).

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Sunset over Piazza del Popolo


The next day, I ended up in Piazza del Popolo again with a different group of friends. This time, a man was entertaining children with a giant bubble maker, someone else was playing acoustic guitar, and people were sitting around everywhere, content, simply enjoying the moment. Behind the lookout on Piazza Napoleone we explored Villa Borghese, a huge green and lush park. We wandered around for a long time, past a dog park, a zoo, and the National Museum of Modern Art. Throughout the Villa there were busts of many of the most influential people in history… Cavour, Machiavelli, and Marco Polo to name a few. We walked through a free museum that had no art in any room except for one. This one displayed the art of refugees from all around the world. The artists scavenged tons (literally, tons) of garbage around Rome to piece together collages of monuments in this city. The art looks simple, but its message is powerful: a humble ‘thank you’ to the city that has taken them in.

Sunday, after finding out that the Keats-Shelley museum I’d set out for was closed, I treated myself to gelato and sat on the Spanish Steps for a while. Then I traipsed through Villa Borghese (again) to the National Museum of Modern Art. My favorite parts were the cracked-mirror floor in the entrance and the massive statues in the classics and mythology section, particularly one depicting a mother smiling at her infant with the most joyful, uninhibited expression. I also spotted a few famous works by artists such as Warhol, Cezanne, Monet, Clemente, and Magritte. I’m not an art scholar by any means, but I enjoyed being swept up in comparing the styles, color schemes, lighting, and contexts of all the paintings.

This is where I’ll leave off and begin crafting a post about this past week – I’ll try to post more often so I don’t have to keep making ridiculously long ones!

A dopo, ragazzi!

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