Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lago di Bracciano

Today I went to Lake Bracciano just north of Rome.  And it was lovely!!!  A nice change of pace from Rome.

The beaches were small, but not too crowded.

There were boats you could rent (I didn't, but plan to next time!)

And there were swans (Even their ugly duckling baby, too : )

Plus, on the way there, two women stopped me for directions, then while I was there a man stopped in his car and asked me for directions, then on the way back, another man asked me for directions!  I guess after all this time here, I've at least accumulated an air of confidence in my travels : )

I did some watercolours, too.  One just shadows:

And one with colours:

I think they turned out pretty well . . .

And there was a castle!  While I was trying to get to the castle, a man on a scooter asked me if I wanted "passage" on his scooter. I thankfully declined his offer, only to realise I had actually taken the long, steep, way around up to the top of the hill. Maybe that's why he thought I needed passage, because I was crazy to walk that direction!

But I made it to the top!

The square where I sat and watched tons of kids running around playing hide and seek and riding their bikes, and grandparents sitting on benches and parents hanging out, too.  Very relaxing; a totally different atmosphere than the Campo!

I would recommend staying in Bracciano and taking day trips to Rome rather than the other way around.  Its just so much calmer and more relaxing in Bracciano, but there's still plenty to do for entertainment.

Well, that was my day, and a pretty good one, I'd say!  Tomorrow I'm studio-ing it up in the morning and then going to try the Appian Way in the afternoon (since Sunday is the only good day to go, when there isn't any traffic).  Ciao!

Alan Ceen's Walk Number Two

Yesterday morning we went on our second tour with Alan Ceen (the road guy).  He is such a great scholar, he really knows his stuff.
Anyway, we walked along this important road that linked a bunch of stuff together historically, but today doesn't really follow the same path it did then, so its not quite so important now. . . but important enough to take a tour of, I suppose.

So, here are some of the few pics I took while walking:

We started at the Ponte Sant Angelo:

We saw a plaque where an old theater used to be, but was demolished when the river was widened and the river road was put in:

Then we walked for a little while along the original level of the road (the new road is on top of that wall to the left)

An old villa:

A surviving fountain from an old port that was demolished when they widened the river.  Not in its original location, however:

Another building owned by the Knights of Malta (the other was that place where we could only look through the key-hole into their garden).  It's one of those things in Italy that is owned by a soverign nation, so technically, you're not in Italy when you cross the threshold (like Vatican City, and their other properties scattered around Rome).

We ended up at the Spanish steps, but apparently I didn't take any pictures yesterday, so here are some from a previous trip to the Spanish Steps:

Later that night, there was a huge thunder storm, and it rained tons!  It was pretty exciting:

Sarada and I taking shelter from the storm in the curtains:

I didn't catch any of the lightning, but when I turned the flash on, I caught the raindrops!

And, after the storm quieted down, the beautiful sunset:

Well, today I'm going to Lago di Bacciano, a lake north of Rome, for the day.  It should be fun!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How To: Get Good Customer Service

So, in addition to telling you all about the things I'm doing here in Rome, I have decided also to start a How To portion of my blog in which I will give practical advise for life in Rome.  You know, just little tidbits I've discovered about living here. . .

For starters, How To: Get Good Customer Service

This is a trick I employ anywhere customer service might be a desireable thing (such as the butcher shop, bakery, fruit and vegetable stand, jewlery shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, the grocery store, etc.) and is really quite simple: find a place which only employs men.

For example:

When looking at earings made by a street vendor, chosse the oldest man with shaggy white hair and only one hand.  When you come up to the table, he will probably say something like "Ciao, principessa!" which is flattering, I'm sure, but it's a little wierd, too.  Then, when you point to some earings you like, wait patiently while he puts them on you, and nod interestedly as he explains to you in broken English that your earring holes are at an angle, and that's why the earings don't go in very easily, otherwise though, stay very still.  As he is attempting to get the second one in (remember, he only has one hand, so that complicates the matter as well) explain to him in broken Italian that while you are from America, you are actually of French and Irish descent, not American Indian.  Then continue to nod interestedly as he relates the names of a few Indian tribes to you.  Occasionally respond with a polite "Oh, yea?" even if you have no idea what he's saying.  When he crimps the ends of the earings together, think to yourself "This is a good sales tactic, since now I can't get them off easily by myself."  When he hands you a mirror to admire his handy work, thank him profusely.  And when another American tourist tells you they look nice, thank him, too.  Then, you get to ask the price.  At this point, though, it may not matter how much they cost, because you're not sure you want to have an angry street vendor pulling his earrings out of your ears.  After you pay him, he might ask for an "Italian kiss" (where you kiss the air next to each other's cheeks).  When you oblige and he kisses you on the cheek, just laugh and say "Ciao!" as you walk away.

If, however, it's not possible to find a store which employs only men (such as at the grocery store, the only place I've found to buy milk, and where the women are exceptionally mean), try to only ask the men for help, and when you check out (since its only women who work the check-out stand) try not to make eye contact, speak only Italian, and try to have exact change.  If you're at a smaller, family-run shop, try to talk to the more elderly women;  it seems that grandmas are nice wherever you are in the world!

For exampel:

At the market in the morning, the only stand to sell cheese is run by a kindly old lady who always gives me a sample of the cheese I'm buying.  Not that I can change my order after I've sampled it, but at least that way I know if I'll be giving most of it to my roommates when I get home.  Also, she is more than willing to cut the cheese up for me.  Sometimes her slices are quite large, however (like a whole wedge of cheese large), so I always have to be ready with a quick "Basta, basta!" (enough, enough!).

I don't know what it is, but it seems the women here are especially cranky, and the men are exceptionally amourous.  Maybe that's why the women are so cranky. . .

Anyway, I don't know that this trick will work with the men, but I suspect it would still be better than trying the other way around (only shopping at stores with women employees).  That just may prove disasterous, but I could be wrong.  Clint, you'll have to experiment for me when we come next year!

Coming up next -- How To: Get Out of a Malfunctioning Elevator

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eat With Me: Asparagus Risotto

Well, I loved the Asparagus Risotto I had at the Olive Garden, so I thought I'd try it here, too!  Sorry I haven't figured out the metric conversion to cups and such, when I get home, though, I'll work on it!

What you’ll need:

300 g fine rice

1 kg asparagus

60 g butter

60 g grated parmesean

1 onion

About 1 liter broth

Olive oil


What to do:

Trim the asparagus of any woody parts, wash and let drain. Divide the tips from the stalks. Peel and chop the onion and sauté in half the butter and three tablespoons of oil. Set the asparagus tips aside, but cook the stalks for about 3 minutes.
Turn up the heat and add the rice, cook for about 2 minutes until the rice becomes clear, stirring constantly. Stir in a few ladlefuls of hot broth at a time, letting it soak into the rice/evaporate between each addition.  This should take about 12 minutes (or until the rice is cooked, if you run out of broth before it's done, add water).
Then mix the asparagus tips in and cook for 6 minutes. Turn down the heat to low, mix in the remaining butter and the parmesan. Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Vicenza and Verona

After Venice, Megan and I went to Vicenza and Verona, while the rest of the girls went to Florence.  Sunday we were planning on going to see some Carlo Scapra buildings Megan wanted to see, so we only were in Vicenza for about an hour that morning; just long enough to realise that there are a ton of Palladian buildings in the town, which was really exciting for me!

Then we spent the rest of the day riding on trains, trying to find the towns where the Scarpa buildings were, but never quite finding them. . . so, it was sort of a lost day, but we did end up in the mountains, so that was nice!

After we got back to Vicenza late that night, there was another thunder storm which was lovely!

The next day, I decided to let Megan do her own Scarpa stuff, while I checked out Vicenza for a few hours before heading over to Verona.

My plan was to see the Palladian buildings in Vicenza, but since no one in town seemed to carry a tourist map, and the public ones posted weren't that helpful, it turned out to be a frustrating few hours, and I was beginning to think the trip was a serious lapse in judgement.  In fact, I was having such a bad day, I tried to change my ticket back to Rome so I could leave earlier, but it cost way too much, so I decided that the first bookstore I found with English books, I would buy one - any one - to make the day go by faster.  Then I bought a map of Verona (already an improvement from Vicenza!) and once I got into the main part of town, it was awesome!  Not as good as Venice, but still worth a day trip!

The cool thing about Verona is . . . well, there are several cool things.  The first I discovered was, that is where Romeo and Juliet takes place, so natrually I had to see their "houses" (yes, Clint I know it is a ficitional story, but it has a setting that is very much real).

Juliet's house:

Romeo's house:

Another cool thing is that they still use their ancinent/historical theaters and stadiums for shows!  In one of them, there was going to be a ballet of Romeo and Juliet, but in September. . . too bad!

The Castle Veccio is pretty cool, too!

While I was in Verona, I found a bookstore (since my train didn't leave til 11:30 pm, I figured I would still need a book to keep me company) and bought Romeo and Juliet (it seemed appropriate, since I hadn't read it yet).  AND they had a Disney store.  I went in twice and came out both times without purchasing anything.  That is a real feat of will for me : )

Well, anyway, 691 pictures later, and that was my four-day weekend!

This plan for this week is work, work, work, and then on Friday we're going on another tour with Alan Sceene (the road guy).  So, I don't expect I'll be doing anything terribly exciting until Saturday. . . Until then, Ciao!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


If my heart wasn't already unwaveringly with Clint in Oregon, I think I would have left it in Venice. . .

That's how amazing Venice is!!  I would have rather stayed in Venice the whole weekend, instead of going to Vicenza and Verona, too, but more about that later.  For now, let's just dream about Venice!

Me in front of the Palazzo Ducale. . . you know, one of those buildings you see in class, but never really think you'll get to see in person!

The chapel inside the Ducale Palace; pretty pretty!

Saint Marks Cathedral (we didn't go in because the line was way too long!)

It started out sunny, but then it rained (hard!) for a while in the afternoon!

So, we hid (along with everyone else) under the lojas around the Piazza San Marco!

Then, just like that it was over, and the sky was back to blue with fluffy white clouds!

Dinner on the Grand Canal was pretty awesome, too!  I've never had a better sea food pasta in my life!!

And, while we were walking back, we realised there was a lightning storm going on in the distance!

The next day was pretty awesome, too!  People I was with wanted to go to museums, but I'm kinda museum-ed out right now (crazy right!  I love museums, but here they all have the same theme:  ancient Roman sculpture and early Catholic art), so I went and wandered on my own while they went to museums.  And found some nice sights, I think!

The local police!

Well, you know I must have had a good time if I took 361 pictures in two days (and feel the need to share them all with you)!  So, sadly, I left Venice and headed to Vicenza, so I'll tell you about that tale tomorrow! Ciao!!