Italy | The Pantheon

By Andrea Zachrich

The Pantheon

I love the Pantheon, especially as a college student and a person who studies classics. As far as being a college student goes, its completely free which is awesome because many of the sites in Rome can get expensive. You can go back as often as you would like (I actually took 2 of my friends to the Pantheon while they were on vacation in Rome and my brother and went another time on my own). As a Classics enthusiast, the Pantheon is perhaps the best preserved ancient monument in Rome (and maybe even in the world). The structure, floors, and walls are all mostly original (with some restoration work and later Christian additions). While there have been some modifications in terms of the sculptures due to its conversion to a Christian church, what remains can really give you a sense of the grandeur and beauty of ancient Rome, which is difficult to imagine in many of the other ruins from antiquity, even in places like Pompeii and Ostia, where the buildings are very well preserved, because they have lost a lot of the stucco and marble facing that would have made them so incredible.

History

The Pantheon really has 5 main histories: 3 rebuildings in antiquity, it’s use as a Christian church from the end of antiquity onwards, and it’s modern history as a tourist attraction in Rome. This building was very influential during the Renaissance, and is one of the most popular sites for tourists (and locals) today.

Ancient Times

The word pantheon is actually Greek in origin. It roughly translates into “all the gods”. Pan means “all” and theon means “gods”. It is, as the name suggests, a temple dedicated to all of the gods. Some scholars, however, think that it was dedicated not to all the gods in the Roman pantheon, but to all the planet gods. Due to the removal of the Roman sculpture on the inside, however, we cannot be sure exactly which gods the temple was dedicated to.

The first Pantheon was built during the years 27-25 BC by Marcus Agrippa. Marcus Agrippa Agrippa was a powerful and influential man who was the right hand man of Emperor Augustus, and essentially served as co-emperor. He has a lot of building projects in the Campus Martius (which is where the Pantheon is). Originally, Agrippa had wanted to put a statue of Augustus inside the temple alongside all of the gods, but Augustus would not allow it, stating that he was not a god yet. Instead, Agrippa decided to put statues of Augustus and himself on the outside of the temple in order to show that they were favored by the gods.

This first Pantheon was destroyed in a fire in 80 AD, and rebuilt by the emperor Domitian. This second temple was again destroyed in 110 AD. Very little is known about these earlier buildings. No one is quite sure what they looked like or their decorations. Some ancient authors have written about them, but even these writings lack clues as to what the building may have been like. Some scholars have speculated that the original entrance actually faced in the opposite direction, but we really don’t know.

The Pantheon we can visit today was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, sometime from 117-138 AD, although most scholars agree that it was probably finished at some point during the 120s. We’re not sure because Hadrian actually put up the original inscription on the new building that reads (in latin of course) “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, during his third time as consul, made me”. Most believe that he put up this inscription because he wished to associate himself and his rule as emperor with that of Augustus.

Middle Ages and Beyond

The Pantheon was given to the Catholic Church in 609 AD by Emperor Phocas, who was the Byzantine emperor in the east. The temple was then turned into a Catholic church. While the church left most of the exterior and interior marble decoration intact, they did remove the pagan sculpture from the inside. Eventually, the marble that covered the exterior brick you see today was taken, as well as the marble decoration from the pediment. We can’t be entirely sure, but many scholars believe that the decoration on the pediment was that of an eagle based on the holes left from where the decoration was nailed into place.

The interior and exterior dome of the Pantheon, as well as the interior roof of the porch used to be covered with bronze. This bronze was taken by the Catholic church in the mid 1600s during the reign of Pope Urban VIII and was actually used to make canons for the Castel S’ant Angelo (known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum to us Classics nerds), and Bernini’s bronze baldachin that you can see inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican today. It must have been a marvelous looking building before the bronze was stripped away (although it is still quite impressive without it).

During the 1600s two bell towers were built on either side of the porch, but they were removed in the late 19th both because they were fairly unattractive (they were nicknamed the “ass’s ears”) and because they did not reflect the original design of the building.

Today, the Pantheon is still used as a Catholic church, although they only have services on Sundays (Saturday evenings for English speakers), and also do not enforce the usual rule of churches in Italy where you must cover your shoulders and legs down to the knee. It is treated much more like an ancient monument and much less like a typical church. It is, however, free to visit because it is still a church.

The Building

The structural integrity of the building has not been compromised in the nearly 2000 years since it was built. The building has managed to survive fires, earthquakes, invasions of the city, and floods without any worry by modern engineers that it will collapse, which really is remarkable.

The building can be divided into two main areas: the porch and the interior (with the dome). The porch is beautiful. It features monolithic columns of granite imported from Egypt. The word monolithic means that these columns are each made using only one piece of stone! They each weigh over 60 tons, and it would have been an incredibly costly and time consuming process to import them. The pink granite columns on the left side, however, are from the Baths of Nero and replaced the original ones in the mid 1600s .

As stated earlier, the interior of the porch roof used to be covered with bronze, and there were two giant statues of Augustus and Agrippa in the niches on the porch. While the decorations from the pediment and the bronze have been stripped away from the porch, it is still a very imposing and beautiful building to look at from the front.

The Pantheon is, of course, most famous for it’s dome. It was the largest dome in the world until the mid 1800s, and is still the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world. Roman engineers were able to accomplish this thanks to a well-made design and their choice of material: roman concrete. Roman concrete is particularly strong because it makes use of volcanic ash as one of the ingredients. The chemical reaction from using this material actually makes the concrete stronger over time. The design has also allowed the dome to stand for as long as it has. The supporting base of the dome is very wide, at 21 feet thick. As it climbs upwards, the concrete dome gets thinner and thinner until it’s only about 4 feet wide so that there is less weight to support as it gets taller. The dome is a perfect half sphere. The diameter across is as long as the dome is tall from floor to oculus. There is an oculus that’s about 8 meters wide at the top of the dome to allow in light and air. The photos show what the inside looks like today.

Two tombs of Italian kings (and one of their wives), and the tomb of the painter Raphael reside inside of the Pantheon. The tomb of Raphael is surprisingly simple for such a great painter; it simply has his coffin and statue of St. Mary that one of his students made. Even though his tomb changes the ancient design, it seems fitting that he would be laid to rest in such a beautiful place.

While we did not get to experience it while we were there, Professor Gurval says that his favorite time to visit the Pantheon is when it rains because rain will actually fall though the oculus (and all the tourists usually clear out). If you look closely, you can find drains built into the floor directly under the oculus. Originally, these drains ran out into fountains that lined the portico that surrounded the Pantheon.

Why I’m So Obsessed with it

The Pantheon is easily my favorite place in Rome. Besides having a courtyard on the outside with a fountain where you can fill up your water bottle and being close to my favorite gelato place in Rome (Giolitti’s), it really is one of the few places in Rome where you can really get a sense of the grandeur and wealth of ancient Rome. Most of the other buildings from antiquity are in ruins, and when they are not, they have been stripped of their decoration. The Pantheon still has all of its original interior marble decoration on the floors and the walls, and the impressive dome still stands in near perfect condition. It’s hard to walk into the forum, or even the coliseum, and fully grasp the wealth of Rome when all you see are dilapidated structures devoid of any sort of decoration, but walking into the Pantheon really shows you what ancient Rome would have looked like, and you get a sense of how powerful and wealthy the empire really was. It also helped me envision what the other sites would have looked like their prime, with beautiful, colored marble decorations and statues decorating the inside. The Pantheon may be one of the best preserved ancient monuments in the world, and it really allows you to get a taste of ancient Rome with much more accuracy than many of the other ancient sites.

Best Time to Visit

Unfortunately for those people who are not morning people, the best time to visit the Pantheon is right at 8:30 AM when it opens. I managed to drag myself here this early, and it really was incredible compared to the other times when I went in the middle of the day. There were maybe 20 other people inside with me (compared to the hundreds during other times). With less people there, you can really examine the floor and the walls (especially if you’re short like me), and admire the tombs and decorations without other people crowding you in. Additionally, with less people you really grasp just how large the structure is, it seems much smaller when you’re surrounded by people. The emptiness really allows you to take it all in.

In short, I love this place. It’s so well-preserved and really a beautiful site, and it’s completely free to visit. Definitely make sure to stop by if you’re Rome! It’s worth taking the time to see.

Italy | The Coliseum

By Andrea Zachrich

My first impression of the Coliseum was that it was smaller than the Rosebowl. My second thought after that was that the Rosebowl was unlikely to still be standing 2,000 years from now in the same way the Coliseum is. My third thought was awe at the fact that this incredibly large structure has withstood the test of time (not without damage, of course, but what’s left is still pretty spectacular).

The Facts

Its Name

I love the story of how the Coliseum got its name. During the reign of Emperor Nero, he commissioned a massive bronze statue of himself as the sun god that was often called the “colossus” because of its huge size. (It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). This statue, which was nearly 100 feet tall, stood right next to the coliseum (with various reworkings of the face for different emperors) until an earthquake in 1000 toppled it, but by then the name of the amphitheater had already been determined. So the name Coliseum comes from the word colossus and essentially refers to a structure that is near the colossus statue of Nero. The true name of the amphitheater is Amphitheatrum Flavium in latin, or Flavian Amphitheater in English, because it was constructed during the Flavian dynasty. That name, however, is rarely used, and the word coliseum with a lowercase “c” has even come to be used for other amphitheaters from the Roman world.

Ancient History

The Coliseum was started around 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and was completed by his son Emperor Titus in 80 AD following Vespasian’s death. The name Flavian Amphitheater comes from these emperors, who were a part of the Flavian dynasty. It was paid for by using wealth acquired from booty during war. According to ancient sources, the inaugural games of the Coliseum lasted a full month, and 9,000 animals were killed and there were hundreds of gladiatorial fights and other spectacles. Some scholars even believe that the amphitheater may have even been filled with water and used for mock naval battles, but other scholars believe that this may have only happened once at the inaugural games or not at all (the Romans did have these mock naval battles, called naumachia, but the location usually made use of existing bodies of water and thus the Romans may not have needed/wanted to use the Coliseum for this purpose). It could seat around 50,000-80,000 people depending on the amount of wooden seating at the top and how packed in the people were. The structure has a series of underground tunnels (you can see them today because the wooden floor no longer exists) that would be used to raise wild animals into the arena or sometimes gladiators from special trapdoors. It also had a canvas cover on the top of the amphitheater called the vela or velarium, the latin word for sail (like from a sail boat) that served to protect viewers from the sun or rain. All of the games at the Coliseum were free to attend and were usually paid for by the emperor, but you had to secure a token with a seat on it prior to the event in order to be allowed in. But, if you were an elite, you didn’t need this token. The emperor had his own box, the senators had marble seats (you can still see this section of seating today), and many elite families had their own boxes in the Coliseum from which to watch the games.

Materials and Architecture

The Coliseum is really a remarkable structure, and has stood for nearly 2,000 years with minimal damage aside from deliberate material robbing. The Coliseum is the largest amphitheater from antiquity. It is mainly made of concrete, tufa (a volcanic stone common in Roman building), and travertine (another stone commonly used by the Romans). It was faced with marble and had statues facing outwards in all of the archways in antiquity. It has three stone layers of seatings (with ionic, doric, and corinthian capitals on the outside) and used to have a top, wooden layer of seating that was the Roman equivalent of the nosebleed seats which most likely burnt down. These wooden seats required near constant maintenance in antiquity, and were frequently subjected to fires and other damages that come from being outside. The structure had a central wooden platform (now completely gone – probably because it rotted away over time) that would have been covered with sand where all the spectacles took place. As discussed earlier, there is an extensive system of tunnels under this floor that were used to place animals and people into the arena. Below are some photos that show the series of tunnels under the floor.

Modern History

During the early medieval ages, the arches of the Coliseum housed shops and were used as housing. There was also a chapel built in the structure at this time. Around 1200 AD, the Frangipani family took over the entire Coliseum and used it as a fort and to house their family. In the mid 1300’s, an earthquake toppled much of one of the sides, and the stones that fell were reused in other buildings around Rome. Similar to many other buildings in Rome, the bronze clamps that held the stone together were actually dug out of the stone, and you can still see the holes that this left on the structure today (and makes it even more remarkable that the Coliseum is still standing). In the mid 1700’s, Pope Benedict XIV declared the site to be sacred and forbid further quarrying because he claimed that Christians had been martyred in the structure. While the Roman did prosecute Christians for much of their history, there is no historical evidence that executions took place in the Coliseum, and many scholars believe that no Christians were ever killed there for the crime of being Christian. There is, however, still a large cross inside of the Coliseum, and this Pope’s declaration did help save the amphitheater from further damage. The Coliseum was finally fully excavated under Mussolini, and underwent a massive restoration project from 1993-2000. There used to be a ton of cats that lived in the Coliseum, but there aren’t as many today. I saw one when we went as a class, and none when I went with my brother. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, and draws in massive amounts of revenue for the Italian government.

Random fun fact: gattara is the Italian word for an old lady who takes care of cats on the streets, and its one of my favorite words I learned in Italian (along with cucchioli which means puppies or kittens which I learned when visiting my Sicilian family and their puppy!) Writing about the stray cats in the Coliseum reminded me about this word.

The Gladiators

Now we get to the good part: the gladiators of the Coliseum. Contrary to popular belief, only about 10 percent of gladiators ever died in battle or from their wounds in battle. It was still a very risky profession, but not as dramatic as is often depicted in movies. Gladiators often did not battle to the death because a gladiator is an expensive investment for their ludus, or gladiator school, because they must be trained, housed, and clothed. It would not be economical to own gladiators if your investments die half the time they were used for a fight. Most gladiators were slaves, although some people did choose to be gladiators. They occupied an interesting place in society. Many were wealthy, as they often got paid large sums to fight, and good gladiators had a type of celebrity status in Rome, but they also were denied the right to citizenship, and many were slaves (although they could often afford to pay for their freedom with their battle fees). They could not marry Roman citizens (although there are stories of particularly famous gladiators consorting with senator’s wives), and had tattoos to signify that they were gladiators. The fame and wealth accompanied with the loss of rights meant that gladiators occupied this strange limbo ground in Roman society.

Going There

Honestly, getting into the Coliseum is really quite a process. As with most tourist attractions in Rome, I would recommend going early and maybe even getting in line before they open. I would also get tickets in advance, or get the super ticket from the Forum the day before so that you don’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket here. When we went as a class, we got there quite early, maybe around 8:30 and only had to wait in line about 30 minutes. My brother and I went a different time and got there around 9:30, and had to wait in line for a little over an hour before we even got to buy our tickets. It takes so long because they send you through security (of which they should have more open) and then have you purchase your ticket after, which, as you can imagine, is a slow moving process. The price of the ticket isn’t terrible, i believe its only 15 euros to visit both the Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

I really enjoy learning about the Coliseum. It is an iconic symbol of Rome, and reminder of the wacky types of entertainment the ancient Romand enjoyed. It’s name, history, construction, and the gladiators that fought (and died) here are all fascinating, and learning about them really enhanced my visit to this awesome place. It was even cooler to take my brother back a second time and teach him all of things that I had learned. In many ways, the Coliseum is symbolic of the ancient Romans: its massive and beautiful and opulent with a violent and bloody history.

Italy | Some handy Italian (and Rome) Tips

By Andrea Zachrich

I thought it might be useful to make a guidebook of things I learned in Italy and differences between the culture there and in the U.S. so that you don’t look like an idiot tourist like I did. Not all of these are super strict guidelines, and some only apply to Rome, but I hope they can help you in your future travels!

  1. You almost always pay after you eat (or drink, if its coffee), regardless of if you eat in a more traditional sit down restaurant, or a walk-up to the counter and order kind of place. Basically, they just trust you to pay after you finish eating. Trying to pay before usually leads to a lot crazy looks and most places will just tell you to wait.
  2. That being said, however, if you’re ordering something quick like a gelato or a drink, they often ask you to pay before you eat it, and then you walk up with your receipt to get your order. Giolitti’s, my favorite gelato place in Rome, functions like this. I would default to the first way of paying unless you see a register near the front of the store or notice someone else paying first.
  3. Grazie – this is the word for thank you. You will use it a lot. For the love of all that is holy, it is not pronounced “gra-zi”, but rather “gra-zi-aye”. I realize that sometimes it will sound like the first pronunciation because Italians often talk rather quickly, but they make fun of Americans who pronounce it the first way.
  4. Italians don’t really have a concept of lines or right of way, so often times if you’re tying to order something you have to be a little assertive and make sure you are heard. I don’t think its them being rude, but rather they assume that everyone behaves like that. Same goes with crossing the street. Drivers won’t stop for you unless you’re already in the street. True Italians just make eye contact with the driver while stepping in the street in front of traffic and assume the cars will stop.
  5. People in Italy eat pizza with a knife and a fork. This took a little getting used to, but I think it makes it better because you can get a better bite of pizza. I also saw my Sicilian relatives cut up parts of the pizza with a knife and fork, and then eat it in pieces with their hands, but I wouldn’t do that unless you see other people doing it (that could have been a more casual way to eat because we were with family too).
  6. For some reason, Google maps worked a lot better for me than Apple maps while I was in Rome. Apple maps would often take me to the wrong address, while Google maps was much more accurate. I’m not really sure why this is, but to save yourself the hassle of going to the wrong place, I would just start with Google maps. You can also use Google maps to figure out which public transportation line to take if you tap on the symbol that looks like a train (super useful!)
  7. If you’re in Rome, I would start with an English “hello” when you walk into a store or restaurant and not a “ciao” even though this goes against everything I stand for in terms of not looking like a tourist. The reason is that if you start with ciao, and you look Italian (as I do because my grandparents are from there), people will start rapid fire speaking to you Italian, and then have to repeat themselves in English after they realize you don’t speak their language when you blankly stare at them, and that’s frustrating for everyone involved. If you start with a hello, they know to start in English, and then if you’re trying to work on your Italian you can always tell them that and ask for some tips.
  8. Download the Italian language dictionary of google translate onto your phone so that you don’t have to use your data. Many museums won’t translate the placards by the art, so the app is useful to have to know what you’re looking at. Ditto for restaurant menus so you know what you’re ordering (at least at first until you get the hang of it).
  9. Watch your stuff , especially on public transportation, because there are a lot of pickpockets. (The amount of times I had an older Italian lady on the tram motion at me to close my bag was absurd. When I was in Catania, Sicily, an old couple even stopped their car in the middle of a busy street to tell me to close my bag, so clearly pickpocketing is an issue in Italy).
  10. Meal times are different there. Lunch is around normal time (usually 12 or 12:30 to 2:00), but dinner is later at around 8:30. If you can’t wait until then, you can head out and grab aperitivo, which is pre-dinner drinks and snacks. It usually starts at around 7:00 (honestly, its a great concept). Breakfast is usually something very simple such as a coffee with a small pastry.
  11. It’s hot in the summer. Like really hot, with humidity on top of it. Visiting sites in the morning and the late afternoon, with an A/C break and nap mid-day, is the way to go. You might feel like you’re missing out, but trying to move around in the middle of the day is miserable and makes you feel terrible.
  12. Get an Italian SIM card for your phone if you’re going to be there any substantial amount of time. It’s the easiest and most stress-free way to communicate. Yes, you do get a different phone number, but your friends and family can use Whatsapp with your old phone number to get in contact with you. Also, Vodafone offers amazing deals on internet usage I got 8GB of data for 10 euros (essentially unlimited data at that amount)! That’s unheard of in the US.
  13. Bring a reusable water fountain to fill up at the nasoni fountains that are all around town and save yourself some money!
  14. Always have cash on you. Many smaller gelato and coffee places only take cash, and even some bigger places act like its a huge inconvenience when you try to use your card. You can get cash at ATMs. Look for one that has a flat fee to pull out money. Make sure not to keep all your cash with you in case it get stolen. Also, get a travel credit card. Bank of America offers an awesome one that covers all international transaction fees.
  15. If you know Spanish, it will really help you in Italy. There was one person in our study abroad group who would just speak Spanish to waiters and servers, and they almost always knew what he meant. I’m not sure they appreciated him speaking Spanish, but it was an effective way to communicate. Most places in Rome have at least one person working there who speaks English, but Spanish may be better to start with if you’re fluent.
  16. Some useful words and phrases:
    1. “Ciao!” is hello and goodbye. I like this word a lot.
    2. “Prego” is translated into “you’re welcome”, but it’s used in more ways than that (although its still used as you’re welcome frequently). Often times, it could be better translated into the word “please” or “go ahead”. When servers are ready for you to order or a hostess takes you to your table, they will often say “prego” to let you know that they are ready for you to speak or that this is where you’re sitting.
  • To order: “per me, ________”, which means “for me, _______ and then whatever you want to order.
  1. The bill is “il conto”. Servers in Italy don’t get tipped for their service, so they generally care less than servers in the US. Don’t be surprised if you have to ask a couple times for the bill. You’re also kind of expected to sit and chill after you eat, so often times they won’t think to bring the bill right away if you don’t ask.
  2. How to say excuse me: this one is particularly useful. There are three phrases in Italian for the one English phrase of “excuse me” and I was a little confused about the usage of the different phrases at first…
    1. “con permesso”: excuse me when you are walking past people (very helpful on public transportation)
    2. “mi scusi”: excuse me when you are trying to get ones attention (such as in a restaurant)
    3. “scusa”: sorry to apologize for something (usually used by my clumsy self when I bumped into someone)
  3. “Dove il bagno?”: where’s the bathroom. You can also just ask “il bagno?” and they’ll usually point you in the right direction.
  • “caldo” and “freddo” are hot and cold, respectively, which is useful for when you’re trying to order coffee.
  • “andiamo” is let’s go! Professor Gurval used this often while trying to get our class places in Rome.
  1. And lastly “allora”. This is one of my favorite words in Italian. It’s basically a placeholder word, and functions as “um” or “well” does in English. If you hear someone say this, they’re probably thinking about what to say.

That’s all I can think of for now. Rome is a pretty easy city to figure out, between Google maps, the internet, and the fact that many people there speak English, you will be a-ok. Good luck on your travels!

Italy | Roman (and Italian) Foods You have to Try

By Andrea Zachrich

Just like many large cities, Rome has some food that is distinctly Roman. Unlike many big cities, everything I tried that was distinctly Roman was delicious, so I thought I would made a list of my favorites. I have also included some Italian foods on this list that you should also try while you’re in Rome or Italy. A lot of these things you can only get in Rome (or they are done the best there), so be on the look out on menus for these items. I don’t have pictures of everything, as I’m not really one to take photos of my meals, but I tried to snag some when I remembered or when it looked particularly delicious.

  • Suppli – THIS IS MY FAVORITE FOOD IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Basically, it’s a ball of risotto rice that’s breaded and fried and it’s bomb. There’s often cheese or meat in the middle. My favorite flavor is just the classic red sauce with cheese, but they come in all kinds of flavors such as cacio e pepe(cheese and pepper). Another variation is called aracini (found in Southern Italy and Sicily), that’s shaped more like teardrop, but is basically the same concept – a fried ball of risotto rice. The picture below is of aracini from Palermo because I ate the suppli too fast everytime to get a picture. It’s usually served as an appetizer or you often find them as snacks in to-go restaurants for around a euro. My Italian friend recommended them to me, and I think I had one just about every day.
  • Cacio e Pepe – a fan favorite for dinner in our study abroad group. This dish can be best described as adult mac ‘n cheese. It’s spaghetti noodles with cheese (usually grana or parmesan) and black pepper mixed with a little bit of the used pasta water to make in more creamy. It sounds simple, but its very good.
  • Gricia – This is cacio e pepe but with meat added – usually pork belly or pork cheek. It’s not as common as cachio e pepe, but I like it more because the meat adds a kind of smoky flavor.
  • Carbonara – very similar to Gricia, but with egg added in the sauce. This is more common on menus and considered distinctly Roman.
  • Amatriciana (fun word to say) – This is another pasta dish similar to the ones described above, but it’s made with a red sauce instead of a cheese sauce. There’s usually pork belly or pork cheek in the sauce (although it often says bacon on menu translations into English).
  • Fried artichokes (carciofi is the Italian word for artichoke) – These are very good. I couldn’t tell you why, but these kind of taste like potato chips, but better.
  • Saltimbocca – I was a little skeptical of this at first, but it grew on me. It’s veal with ham and herbs (usually sage). It can be a little more expensive, but it’s pretty tasty.
  • Pizza – you can’t go to Italy without eating pizza. Many places actually serve pizza by the weight instead of by the piece (it’s awesome and usually a really good deal). As you can tell by the photos below, we ate a lot of pizza!
  • Pasta alla Vongole – If you like clams, this dish is for you. Before I came to Italy, clams weren’t really my favorite. I thought they tasted like you stuck your head in the ocean and opened your mouth. BUT, I really enjoyed vongole whenever I had it in Italy. It’s in-shell clams in a simple garlic sauce tossed with pasta. Best part of about eating it in Italy is that it’s usually not more than a euro more than the rest of the pasta dishes, unlike in the US where clams can get expensive!
  • Charcuterie Board – You cannot go to Italy without eating some meats and cheeses. There’s various different names for this kind of appetizer in Italy, but keep your eyes out for something with a bunch of different meat and cheese names on the menu. Or, go to a salumeria (meat shop), get the ingredients to make your own, and go sit down by the Tiber or another scenic spot and have a picnic.
  • Bruschetta – a classic. Toasted bread with olive oil, salt, and toppings. Often fresh tomatoes or olives. Some restaurants get creative, but I prefer the classics tomato and olive oil.
  • Focaccia – This bread is everything good in life. It’s a flat, simple bread often flavored with herbs and olive oil. The most classic ones will just have olive oil and salt, some have herbs such as rosemary, and some even get more creative and bake olives or cheese into the bread. The best ones have a slightly crispy outside and a soft, fluffy inside.
  • Gelato with panna – well, of course! You probably know what gelato is, but I view it as basically upgraded ice cream. Panna is the Italian version of whip cream, it doesn’t have the pressurized air, so you’re basically getting another scoop of gelato.
  • Tiramisu – If you’ve never tried tiramisu, you’re missing out. It’s ladyfingers that are dipped in coffee and layered with a creamy filling. Good news too – you can make this at home fairly easily!
  • Canolis – This is more of a Sicilian specialty, but I had some delicious ones while in Rome too. I grew up eating canolis. My great-grandma used to make a million little tiny ones for holidays. It’s a shell of dough that’s fried until its crunchy filled with a ricotta cheese and sugar filling. Sicilian ones (which are the ones you want) often dip the shells in chocolate and have sugared orange slices on the filling.
  • Cornetto – This is the Italian version of a French croissant. They’re usually a little less sweet, and can come in more flavors and with more fillings such as marzipan and nutella. When my brother and I visited relatives in Sicily, this is what they served us for breakfast every morning (we were very spoiled) and I think it’s usually viewed as a breakfast food.
  • Granita – picture a slushie, but it’s actually made with real, fresh fruit, and you get a granita. These things are so freaking good. My favorite flavors are strawberry and lemon. I especially like them because they’re not too sweet (with the exception of chocolate, I usually stick to more sour and bitter desserts). In Rome, you’ll usually see them in a spinning slushie machine similar to ones in the US. In Southern Italy (where they’re better, honestly) they scoop them like gelato out of metal containers in a freezer. They’re both delicious, and a nice, cheap treat to cool you down in the Roman summer heat!
  • Cappuccino – Coffee in Italy is amazing. Again, you probably already know what a cappuccino is, but if you don’t, its espresso with steamed milk usually topped with a little foam. You can often find them for under two euros in Rome, but only if you eat at the counter of the bar instead of sitting down (which you should!)
    • SIDE NOTE: Italian servers will correct you if you do not pronounce espresso correctly. It’s es-press-o with a “s” in there, not ex-press-o (no “x”).
  • Crema di Cafe – I think I might have touched on this in an earlier post, but this was my second favorite new food item I found in Rome (with suppli being the first, of course). Picture a really strong and not overly sweet coffee milkshake that’s often so thick you eat with a spoon, yum!

This was the best Crema di Cafe I had in Rome, and it was in a cafe inside a church! Weird.

Go forth and eat lots of good food! There’s amazing food to be found all over Italy, and I had some of the best food I’ve eaten in my life while I was there (and writing this post really made me crave some!). Make sure to try these Roman and Italian dishes while you’re there, because some of these you can’t get in the US (or, at least, I haven’t found them yet)!

Italy | Public Transportation

By Andrea Zachrich

Coming from Los Angeles, where the public transportation is seldom used and pretty inconvenient, I thought the public transportation in Rome was awesome. Yes, it was almost never on time, and yes, it was often crowded with people who couldn’t seem to figure out a bus map, but the whole month I was there it got me where I needed to be mostly on time.

So there’s three kinds of public transportation in Rome: the subway, the busses, and the trams. We mainly used the busses and the trams. There are only a few subway lines in Rome because every time they attempt to build a new line, some ancient monument or site is found and they have to stop construction. They’re attempting to build a new one by the Coliseum at the moment, but it has been slow going. They also don’t have any subway lines that go under the river and into Trastevere. I only used the subway twice the entire month I was there, so I didn’t find it particularly useful, but it could be if you’re staying near a stop. The trams are awesome, but there’s only 2 lines – the 3 and the 8. BUT, both lines go to very convenient places. The 8 ends in one of the main piazzas of Rome – Piazza Venezia – and goes to Trastevere, and the 3 has stops near the Coliseum, Largo Argentina (where Julius Caesar was murdered!) and other ancient sites. Another advantage of the tram is that it’s almost always on time. If the tram gets you to your location, it would be my first choice of public transportation to use. The busses are the most extensive type of public transportation in Rome and can get you almost anywhere in the city that you want to go. The one downfall to them, however, is that they are constantly running late. Sometimes they’re running so late that you think they’re on time because they get there at the time it says the bus after them should be there. There’s a ton of tourists on busses, because this is the form of transportation that stops at many of the main tourist sites, but as long as you’re not going as peak hours it’s usually isn’t unbearably crowded.

What I did

So, I was there for a month, and I knew I was going to be using public transportation extensively. If we ever used the bus as a class, those tickets were covered, but everything else was our own responsibility to pay for. So I decided to get a month long unlimited bus pass. Our program director offered to reimburse us the cost of all the tickets we would use as a class (16 euros) if we decided to purchase our own pass (which was 38 euros). It was a great deal. I definitely used the bus/tram more that the 15 times I paid for (in terms of individual tickets) and it was nice to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing I could always use it if i needed it. Also, with our apartment a 20-25 minute walk from where we met every morning, the bus pass was a god send. I used it to get around town when friends visited, my brother was here, or I just wanted to go out and explore. It made exploring Rome easy and fast, and I’m very glad I purchased one.

What you should do

If you’re just there for a few days or a week, and know you’re going to be using the public transportation system a lot, I would get one of the passes that will let you have unlimited rides. I think they have 1 day, 2 day, 3 day, and 1 week passes. If you don’t think you’re going to be using public transportation that much, then you can also buy individual tickets. They’re 1.50 euro and are good for 90 minutes. If you’re there for a month like we were, I would get the month pass. It really depends on the length of time you’re going to be there and the amount of public transportation you think you’re going to use.

Where do you buy bus tickets?

Italy is very unique in that you cannot buy bus tickets at the bus, and you cannot buy bus tickets at the bus station (unless you’re at one of the main ones such as Termini). You have to get them at Tabacchi. In English, these are translated into Tobacco Shops, and, even though they sell cigarettes, they also sell a lot of other items as well. Tabacchi are the place to go for stamps, snacks, bus tickets, occasionally SIM cards etc. It’s basically just a very specific convenience shop. Look for a white “T” enclosed in a blue square, and they should have public transportation tickets!

A photo of a typical Tabacchi shop I stole from the Internet

Some tips for the public transportation

Part of the reason using public transportation in Rome is so easy is because you can use Google maps to tell you the route you have to take. This is awesome, because in many places the public transportation system isn’t mapped out on an app like this. You type in where you want to go, and Google maps will tell you how to get to the station, how many stops you have, which stop to get off of, and how to get to your destination. They also usually provide more than one option of how to get there. I included some photos below.

So the way the tickets work is that you get them stamped by a machine as soon as you walk on the bus as a way to start the 90 minute time. You should always stamp your ticket. I know it seems like you might be able to get away with not stamping it and then reusing the ticket, but one of the students on my trip got a nearly 100 euro fine for not stamping her ticket (even though she had one!) If you have the passes for more than 1 trip, the officer will scan it to make sure its still valid (but they’re not really looking for you because most of the times tourists with those tickets don’t abuse them).

Another tip: watch you stuff closely. They’re aren’t a ton of pickpockets on the streets of Rome, but they are a lot on the busses and trams! One of the students in our group got here wallet stolen by a group of pick pocketers who had a baby with them, so don’t assume that just because people look like a family on vacation that they won’t take your stuff. Always zip your bags and hold it in front of you.

Public transportation in Rome is super easy! Have fun and be safe 🙂

Italy | Pompeii Field Trip

By Andrea Zachrich

The Pompeii Forum! That mountain is Mt. Vesuvius

This was definitely my favorite weekend of the trip. As part of the class, we got to take a bus to Pompeii, stay in a motel (with a pool), and visit the ancient site for a day and receive lectures. Having an opportunity like this is honestly so cool. Everything is planned out for you (all you have to do is hop on the bus). You don’t have to worry about tickets for the site or transportation or getting a tour guide or looking up information. Also, our professor encouraged the class to look into visiting one of the islands off the coast of the Bay of Naples after the field trip, so some of us went to Ischia, and it was amazingly beautiful.

Class Set Up

We left for the field trip on a Friday morning and then the site visit was on a Saturday. It takes about three hours to get from Rome to Pompeii by bus, so we got to the motel around lunch time. You get to pick your roommates in advance. The motel is pretty nice – nothing super special but it was clean, had AC, a pool, and breakfast, and the beds were comfortable. It’s also within walking distance to the entrance of Pompeii. You get to pick what you want to do that first day (I’ll talk about the options in a second), and then that evening we went to dinner as a class. Personally, I was not a fan of the food at the dinner, but it was nice to eat in all together in a big group. Then, we all went to bed fairly early because we were walking down to the site the next morning at 8 am.

Options for Day 1

So for that first day you’re there, you basically have three options.

1.Visit Herculaneum with the professor – I did not take this option (although normally this is something I would do) because my brother and I were planning on going here when he flew out in a couple weeks, and I didn’t want to visit it twice. Herculaneum is amazing though. It’s much better preserved than Pompeii because it’s excavations were carried out in a much better and more systematic way. It’s also much less crowded. My brother and I went on a Saturday and there were barely any people there. The site also gives you a very detailed and very useful information booklet, but if you go with the professor you (obviously) wouldn’t have to worry about that. Getting here from Pompeii or Naples is pretty easy. You have to take what we named the “World’s Hottest Train” and I think it’s about a euro or a euro fifty each way. We named it the “World’s Hottest Train” because it was incredibly crowded and there was no AC and that made it blazing hot. Be prepared to break a sweat. Below are a bunch of pictures of my visit to Herculaneum with my brother.

  1. Take a bus to the top of Mount Vesuvius – This is another really cool option that you have for that first day. I didn’t do it with the class because I knew I would be back, but it’s awesome. Basically, you pay 20 euro (10 euro for the bus ride and 10 for the Mt. Vesuvius park ticket) and a bus company with take you up the mountain and deposit you fairly close to the top. There’s great views and you can even look into the crater of the volcano. Mt. Vesuvius is still an active volcano and it was smoking when I went.
  1. Chill by the pool and/or wander around the town – this is the option I chose to do because I knew I would be doing the first two later. I’m not sure if I would recommend it unless you know you’re coming back. But it was very relaxing for us. We found a surprisingly good pizza place next to a parking lot, and then wandered through the town and got more e limone (blackberry and lemon) granitas (peep at my post about food to try if you don’t know what that is). Then we took a nap and hung out by the pool. It was a nice break honestly.

History of Pompeii

At the time Pompeii was buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, it was a medium-size Roman town right on the coast in the Bay of Naples. About 10,000 people lived there (plus al of their slaves). The eruption actually made it so that the town is now about 2km kilometer away from the ocean, but in antiquity it would have been right on the water. Being on the coast and near a river (Sarno), it was a center for trade and commerce and had a thriving agricultural sector.

We’re not entirely sure who founded the city, but we think it’s been around since the 8th or 7thcentury BC. The Etruscan lived in that area, the Greeks say they had a colony around there, and the Samnite people live in the region also. Either way, by it was definitely a Roman town by the 2ndcentury BC.

In antiquity, the town was mainly known for the products it produced. One of the more famous was garum, a fermented fish sauce used extensively by the Romans. Italian food doesn’t reflect this taste today, but garum was essentially used as salt to flavor food. Some of the best came from Pompeii. The town, being right next a volcano, had incredibly fertile volcanic soil in which to grow produce. Pompeii was also well known for its grapes/wine, figs, olives, nuts, and other types of food. The area was also a place where many wealthy Romans would have vacation villas where they would go during the summer to escape the heat of the city. As you can imagine, Pompeii was a fairly well – off city.

The beginning of the end for Pompeii started in 64 Ad, 15 years before the fateful eruption. In that year, there was a gnarly earthquake that the town was still rebuilding from when the eruption happened. Earthquakes continued to occur in that time frame before the eruption, but it doesn’t seem as though they did as much damage as the original.

In 79 AD, the people of the Bay of Naples woke up to a really loud bang. They didn’t know what had caused it, but it was the magma of Vesuvius breaking through the surface. By about mid-day, there was a massive mushroom cloud in the sky. Ash and small pumice stones began to fall like rain. It was at this point that many people left the city. Soon after, buildings began to collapse due to the weight of the stones falling. At this point though, almost everyone in the cities were OK (unless a building fell on them or something). Many went to bed thinking that they would wake up in the morning and the raining rock would be over. That night, pyroclastic surges – incredibly fast gushes of heat and ash – began to run down the mountain and wash through the town. It was these that killed people and leave the famous plaster casts you can see today – the surge would suffocate someone almost instantly.

It is believed that the emperor at the time, Titus, tried to send a rescue mission where they found no survivors. There is also a theory that this rescue crew may have dug up the treasury and some of the art from the forum of Pompeii, because that has yet to be found during excavations (although it’s possible that it’s in a part of the town that has not yet been excavated). The rescue crew deemed recovering the city a lost cause, and eventually, the buried town was forgotten by history.

But, in the late 1700’s, when they were digging a well, Pompeii was re-discovered. Massive excavations were done (none too carefully I might add). People were fascinated with the town. It still had much of its frescoes and mosaics and shops and homes very well-preserved. Nowadays, Pompeii (and Herculaneum) can provide scholars with some of the best evidence to learn about day to day lives of ancient Romans. From the election notices on the walls to the dirty graffiti to the brothels to the homes in Pompeii, there is a ton to be learned about the ancient Romans here.

Side note on the plaster casts of people: they still have them, but there are a lot fewer than there used to be and they don’t really have any plans to make more, which I think is a good thing. Honestly, I think it’s barbaric to use the exact moment of someone’s death in a brutal and catastrophic way as a macabre form of entertainment for tourists. Would you want your moment of death, especially in one as scary as this, to be looked at by millions of people hundreds of years later?? But, I digress.

My favorite things about Pompeii

Being with professor Gurval, we learned quite a few fun facts about Pompeii that I really enjoyed, so I thought I would list a few facts and my favorite places there.

  • If you see red painted letters on an exterior wall, it’s probably an election notice. Pompeii has some of the best evidence for these. Through these, we learn that women did have influence over and participate in politics by promoting candidates even though they could not vote. It was awesome to go with our professor because he could translate them for us.
  • Many of the mosaics on the floors of shops will tell you what they are. If you see a ship, it could be a shipbuilder or a merchant. If you see wine, it’s probably a wine shop. Also, the Romans had bars and fast food very similar to us today. They would keep food or drinks in little holes cut out of the bar, and many places even had furnaces to keep them warm.
  • Ancient Rome had a ton of brothels (like really, there were a lot). In Pompeii, we have a particularly interesting example that has different sex acts painted over the doors to rooms. Some have speculated that patrons to the brother would pick the type of sexual encounter they wanted based on the picture above the door, but others think it was just decoration (or maybe inspiration for the customers) in the brother.
  • The House of Vetii – this house is awesome and in very good shape. It was built by two freedman (ex-slave) brothers who lived together. It’s got gorgeous frescoes of mythological scenes, and a few interesting representations of Priapus (the god of male fertility who is almost always depicted with a massive phallus).
  • The forum – this is your pretty typical Roman forum, but I found it particularly interesting because the largest building there, a slave market, was actually built by a woman. Pompeii actually caused a lot of Roman scholars to rethink their (sexist) views that women were not players in Roman society. Based on evidence from Pompeii, it’s clear that many had influence and were very wealthy in their own right.
  • You will see stones that span the width of the roads in many places. These are there because Pompeii did not have a sewage system, and people would use these to cross the street when there was rain water or sewage or anything else in the streets. There’s spaces between them so that carts, usually pulled by horses or donkeys or even people, could fit their wheels there.
  • There are a decent amount of stray dogs in the site. As someone who studies Classics, I know it probably isn’t a great idea to have animals in an archeological site, BUT THEY’RE SO CUTE! Here’s one from Pompeii.

Tips for Visiting

Go in the morning as soon as the site opens. And go on a weekday. This place got packed by the time we were ready to leave around 2. Also, unless you don’t mind paying for the overpriced food in the café that on-site, bring snacks. You can also bring in a water bottle – they’ve actually run pipes back into some of the ancient fountains so you can drink that. I would also have some plan of what you would like to see in advance. As you can imagine, it’s quite a large site and you could save yourself some walking by not having to backtrack.

As I mentioned earlier, we had the opportunity to go to Ischia following our visit (and I know some other people in the class went to Capri). I would recommend Ischia because there are a lot less tourists and most of the tourists there are people from Naples. The food is delicious, they don’t over charge you for food, it’s not as crowded, and the beaches are gorgeous. There’s also a really cool castle right off the coast that you can walk across a bridge to get to. The castle has a ton of buildings and even a torture museum! We had a great time on Ischia, so if you have the chance to go, I definitely would.

This was a great part of our trip. I feel very fortunate that it was included in the program and I feel like I learned a lot of ancient Rome by visiting Pompeii.

Italy | Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

By Andrea Zachrich

This was one of the most fun museums we got to visit, mostly because we got to go through it at our own pace. We goofed around a little bit with some of the art, and they had some really interesting exhibits as well.

A little background

The Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is one of four Roman National Museums. The other three are the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Altemps, and Crypta Balbi. Our class also visited the Crypta Balbi and the Baths of Diocletian (as an optional trip), but I’m not sure I would go to the other ones. The Crypta Balbi (which is over by the Largo Argentina) is cool because it goes through a bunch of layers of excavations, from an ancient stone theater to medieval and Renaissance pieces, but it is fairly small. The Baths of Diocletian mainly has ancient Roman inscriptions, but unless you have someone like our professor who can translate ancient Latin (or can do it yourself) it might not be the most interesting place to visit. We didn’t get to go to the Palazzo Altemps, but I’ve heard its mainly pieces from the Renaissance, which would be cool but was outside of the scope of our class. This museum is located near the Baths of Diocletian and the main train station in Rome, Termini. It’s pretty easy to spot because it’s a big, yellow building. The building was constructed during the 19th century, and was originally a Jesuit college, until 1960 when it was given to the city of Rome. In 1981, it became one of the buildings of the National Roman museum.

A little about my favorite pieces

This museum is massive, and there’s a lot of art, like a lot, like four entire floors of it. Here’s a few of my favorite ones.

The entire bottom floor is Roman coins, which is awesome. You can really learn a lot about the ancient Romans from their coins. During the Republican era, wealthy Romans would commission coins to glorify their actions and their family, often using them as a way to gain publicity before an election. During the imperial era, emperors would commission coins with monuments they built, their face, or symbols of popular actions they took as a way to remind the people of their power or increase their popularity. The coins can also be useful in determining what certain ancient monuments that no longer survived looked like. For example, we know the Temple of Deified Julius Caesar, of which there are only foundations left today, had a star on its pediment because we’ve found a coin with a representation of the building.

The statues there are also amazing, and there’s an almost overwhelming amount. The Boxer, a well-preserved bronze statue of a boxer, is very cool and amazingly detailed. You can really see how exhausted the boxer is, and if you look closely, you’ll notice that the sculptor even included scars on his subject’s face. They also have a couple of copies of The Discus Thrower, a commonly copied statue. The original in Greek. Additionally, they have many busts of Emperors, including a particularly cool one of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus (the head priest of Rome). There’s also many statues of gods and goddesses. Below I included some examples of statues from the museum.

Augusuts as Pontifex Maximus, and Mike as Augustus

Something unique about this museum that not many other museums have is mosaics. This place has a ton of mosaics, and there are some really beautiful ones. My personal favorite is one that depicts a scene from the Nile river in Egypt, and even has a hippopotamus!

Lastly, the crowning jewels of this museum is their huge collection of frescoes, many of which are beautifully preserved with vibrant colors. They display these frescoes in a really unique way by placing them on the walls in rooms exactly how they were found and, in some cases, allowing you to walk around in the room to get a sense of what the room they were in looked like. Our Professor even gave a lecture in a room of frescoes from the Villa Livia in Primaporta – a villa owned by the wife of Augustus in the Roman town Primaporta, and they are gorgeous.

Tips for visiting

The combined ticket for this museum, which costs 12 euros and is valid for three days, will also get you into the three other Roman National Museums discussed earlier: The Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Altemps, and Crypta Balbi. The singular ticket that just works for the one museum is 10 euros, so if you’re thinking about visiting any of the other museums, getting the combined ticket would be the way to go. This museum wasn’t crowded (like, at all), but as with many museums in Rome, it doesn’t have air conditioning, so the earlier you can go, the better. The hours are from 9:00 am to 7:45 pm most of the days, so I imagine an evening visit would be nice as well. They make you check your backpacks and large bags, but they have a free coat check, so it’s really not an issue.

Where to eat after

Eataly! (Get it, like Italy but you’re eating). If you live in West Los Angeles, you might already know what Eataly is because the Italian company recently opened a store in the Century City Mall. Eataly is a meat shop, cheese shop, coffee shop, pastry shop, market, and restaurant all rolled into one large building. In the one near the Palazzo Massimo, the restaurant is on the top floor, and the market and coffee shop are on the bottom. It’s a fun place to go to grab a coffee, pastry, some meat selections, or even eat a meal like we did. They have a massive selection of items (I think the pizza list had around 40 different pizzas listed) and it was good. It was also fun to go because now we know that the one in Los Angeles is authentic and we can compare the two when we get back to school!

Pizza from Eataly!

In short, if you have some extra time in Rome, this museum is definitely worth a visit. I don’t know if I would put it at the very top of my list because it’s a little out of the way and not necessarily as iconic of Rome as the Pantheon or the Coliseum or even the Capitoline museum, but it was fun to visit because they have a wide variety of pieces, it’s not very crowded, and it’s right by a delicious restaurant. If you have the time, and you’re a fan of ancient Roman art, its worthwhile to go!

Italy | Packing for Rome

By Andrea Zachrich

Packing: the dreaded but incredibly necessary part of any trip.

I thought that, since this blog is for future students going on this trip, having a post about packing would be helpful. I know that I wished I had a packing list so I wouldn’t have had to think so much about what to bring.

I’m not going to lie, packing for this trip was difficult. I needed to fit 8 weeks worth of clothes, toiletries, and school supplies in a carry-on suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. I am a notorious overpacker, so I really had to check myself here (I brought 6 pairs of sliders for our 3 day national soccer tournament last fall just to give you an idea). With some advance planning and a little bit of foresight, packing for this trip wasn’t too difficult, and I even kind of enjoyed the challenge of it.

Everyone’s packing is going to be unique, but below I highlighted some of the items I found essential and/or especially helpful by the type of item. I tried to add a little bit of my thought process in order to help my future Bruin travelers (or any traveler in a comparable situation) be able to think about their own packing in a similar way. It’s important to be thoughtful with your packing because you are going to be gone for an extended period of time with a limited amount of space especially if you want to save money and take a carry-on suitcase. It’ll save you unnecessary expense and stress if you think this out before you leave and pack well so that you won’t have to purchase things there.

School Supplies

First thing: check the syllabus for your class BEFORE YOU LEAVE UCLA’S CAMPUS! I actually had a few things that I had to get in advance, such as bluebooks, that I could only (easily) purchase while on campus. The syllabus will also tell you what books you need to purchase and other important information so, as with any class, your syllabus is your friend.

Almost forgot we had to school while abroad when packing

As you can see, I needed…

  • 2 bluebooks
  • Sketchpad and notebook for daily observations: The limoncello one is both tribute to my family, whom always make homemade limoncello around Christmas time, and seemed fitting for a trip to Italy. I found all of these at Marshall’s for extremely reasonable prices if you’re looking for one. I know they also sell them at Ackerman if you’re still on campus.
  • Syllabus: always a good idea to print out in advance. Professor Gurval’s syllabus reflects his typical organization and has a detailed schedule of site visits.
  • Pens and colored pencils: always important, especially since we have to sketch the monuments and keep a daily journal as part of our grade. Thankfully, the sketches aren’t graded because I can’t draw much more than a smiley face.
  • Camera: not necessarily a school supply, but necessary for my scholarship so I put it in this category.
  • Laptop: this one is a no brainer for me because I use my laptop for everything. If you think it will be useful in your studying after reading the syllabus, I would bring it.
  • Chargers: for everything (laptop, phone, camera, any other small devices such as a Fitbit or a Kindle).
  • Textbook: we had one for this class called Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide and an optional one entitled In Search of the Romans. I brought both because I happened to have them already from other classes.

Toiletries

You can get a lot of these things in Italy, but it might be cheaper to get some of these things at home. If you’re like me and your skin hates most products, it might also save you some stress to get these things in advance so you know you won’t have any sort of reaction while abroad.

I know that you really wanted a photo of my toiletries

  • My favorite things: shampoo and conditioner bar – these things are so cool and the employees at Lush say they should last at least 80 washes, which will easily cover the trip if you’re like me and don’t wash your hair everyday. They’re space saving which is great for someone like me who has a ton of products for my hair and skin, and no packaging will be going into the landfill, which is a win-win for me. They also only cost about 10 dollars each, which is about 25 cents per hair wash.
  • Medication: make sure you have enough of whatever it is that you need. I also brought some over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, Benadryl, and some cold medicine in case I needed them abroad.
  • Sunscreen: I have heard this is more expensive to buy in Italy, so I brought some with me. I can only use certain types of sunscreen because I break out easily, so I just made sure to grab the kinds I know wouldn’t make me a splotchy mess.
  • Chafe Balm: This stuff has saved my life on numerous occasions. Well, ok, that’s a hyperbole, but it has made my life way more comfortable. I use it for soccer games, walking around campus, hiking, etc. under my arms and on my legs. We’re going to be very active on this trip, so this is going to be essential for me.

Clothes

I won’t go super into detail here, but there are a few strategic things to consider when packing clothes. First off: Rome is HOT during the summer. According to a quick google search, it’s around a 90 degree average temperature during the day and barely gets below 70 at night AND it’s humid as well, so keep that in mind when picking out your clothes. I tried to pick a lot of light and loose cotton fabrics.

All my clothes!

  • Shoes: I limited myself to 4 pairs – sneakers, walking sandals, running shoes, and heels for going out. This covered all my bases in terms of working out, walking around the city for class, and going out to eat and to bar, clubs, etc. I know it seems like a lot of shoes, but, since you wear one pair on the plane, they don’t actually take up too much space.
  • Clothes: I have been told that people in Italy don’t wear workout clothes unless they are working out (a ridiculous concept in my opinion), so I struggled to fit in both workout clothes and wandering around Rome clothes. This isn’t a super important point, but might be nice to think about as you’re packing. In general, I packed mainly dresses/rompers which are perfect for those hot Roman summers. I also had a couple pairs of jean shorts, some tank tops/t-shirts, skirts, and 2 pairs of jeans. I only brought 2 jackets, a jean jacket that I wore on the plane and a lighter sweater for the evenings.

Other

  • Headphones: essential for the plane and when I run. I am planning on running a lot, so stay tuned for a few posts about running routes in Rome near the Accent apartments.
  • Converters: The first time I went to Europe in middle school I was shocked when I realized that the plugs are different. I got these converters on Amazon for around 10 dollars for 2 of them. One has USB plugs and the other has a regular plug. You’ll need the ones with two prongs.
  • Passport and ID: Obviously, these are very important and needed to get on the plane. Make sure to make copies in the unfortunate case that they get lost or stolen.
  • Euros: You can always exchange euros at the airport or when you arrive in Rome, but I did it ahead of time because my bank would exchange them for no fee. I mainly plan on using my travel credit card while abroad (there is a Visa card that will pay you back all of your international exchange charges if you’re looking for a credit card to use while abroad), but I thought it would be nice to have at least some cash.
  • Scarf: some places in Rome want you to cover your shoulders, so I brought this scarf with me for those places. It could also double as a beach towel.
  • Water bottle: you will be walking a lot, so a reusable water bottle is nice to have.
  • Sunglasses and hat: As stated above, its hot in Rome, so these are essential. I brought a fun sun hat and a UCLA baseball cap. #gobruins

Items I will be purchasing in Rome

I tried to buy the lease amount possible while there, but there are some liquids I just couldn’t quite manage to fit…

  • Laundry detergent: I thought about bringing some detergent sheets, but thought it would be easier to just use regular detergent and purchase it when I get there.
  • Lotion: I wanted a larger bottle for my very dry skin and it wouldn’t fit in my quart sized liquid travel bag.

Go forth and pack! I know it’s not the most fun part of traveling, but packing well will help you have fun later!

Rome | My Favorite Running Route

By Andrea Zachrich

While I haven’t been running nearly as much as I would like to while I’m here (this heat is BRUTAL), I have found some nice runs around our apartment. My personal favorite goes through Piazza Garibaldi, which has amazing views of all of Rome. I had a friend who lives in Rome show me this spot, and I’m so glad he did. Even if you don’t like to run, I still think it’s worth a trip up there both because its free and it has gorgeous #views.

This is around a 5.3 mile run and it takes me about 50ish minutes (depending on how fast I’m moving and how hot it is). There is a water fountain towards the end of the route, so you don’t necessarily have to carry water with you if you don’t want to. I would recommend running in the early morning or, if you’re like me and can’t quite wake up that early, in the evening shortly before dusk in order to catch the coolest times of the day when the sun is also up.

The route starts on the main street in Trastevere (the neighborhood we’ve been living in) just because its easy. It then climbs quite a bit up towards the Piazza using a set of stairs with a face painted on them. This run is kind of hilly (because you obviously would have to run up a hill to have a great view), but its very doable. I’ve done it with other people from the program and we’ve been able to have a conversation while running, so its really not that bad.

After some twists and turns, you arrive at the Piazza. I usually take a break for a minute or two to admire the views and rest after running up the hill. You then then run back down the opposite way you came all the way down to the Tiber river. Next, you would run along the river until you come to the staircase that just passes the starting point on the main street, and go up the staircase and finish the run by heading back to Viade Trastevere.

Views from the Piazza

It’s a simple route, with some great views and cooler air down by the Tiber. If you’re planning on running while you’re abroad, I would definitely look into doing this run. If you want a great view of Rome, then I would recommend visiting Piazza Garibaldi. Happy Running!

Statue at the center of the Piazza