Italy | Arrivederci, Roma

By Jessica Helfond

Friday, July 26th. The final day of our month long program in Rome. Waking up in the morning was a mix of emotions. There was some stress about finishing up our final projects and finals for classes, excitement about going home to see our families (and sleep in our own beds), but more than anything, sadness about our program being over. It went by way faster than any of us could have thought. The month was filled with so many fun, new experiences, we were sad that it was drawing to a close. But before we went home, we had a farewell dinner with all of the program participants, directors, and professors.

Our program director surprised us with a rooftop dinner on our final night. The view was breathtaking. It seemed like the perfect place to commemorate our month long adventure abroad. There was a wide variety of appetizers served, and we were able to eat while spending some final time with the friends we made over the course of the program.

With it being our final night, and being in such a gorgeous location, there was an entire portion of the night dedicated to taking pictures for the last time with our friends and professors.

I have to say, the faculty on this program were absolutely incredible. Andrea Moudarres (our professor) and Federica Di Blasio (our TA) are two of the best faculty members I have had during my time at UCLA. They were both great at teaching their classes, but what really made them incredible was how we were able to bond with them. Because of all the time we spent with them, we were able to get to know them more than you normally would be able to know a professor on campus. Additionally, they both cared so much about our wellbeing, both academically and personally while abroad. They knew taking classes while trying to enjoy being in a foreign country was difficult, and did the most they could to make our time abroad as enjoyable as possible. I could not recommend them more, and I think the program was as great as it was largely because of them.

I also have to say how amazing the students on the program were. There was such a wide variety of students on the program, from history to biology majors and everything in between. Despite all of our different backgrounds, we were all there because we wanted to experience a beautiful foreign country and culture. It was so fun being with such a great group of people, and I can honestly say that I made some friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

As the sun set on our final evening, it was extremely bittersweet. Our professors started to say goodbye to us all, and reminded us to come visit them on campus to keep in touch. And then came time for us all to say goodbye to each other. There were so many hugs, exchanging of social media to make sure we could keep in touch, and even some tears. Our month in Rome, although full of challenges, was a once in a lifetime experience. I can honestly say it’s an experience I won’t come close to forgetting any time soon. 

So thank you for reading all about the Rome Summer Travel Study program, and I hope you consider studying abroad yourself. It is a life changing experience to experience a new culture with incredible people, and an experience that I cannot recommend more.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Villas on Villas

By Jessica Helfond

It’s Week 3 of the program. Classes have picked up the pace, we’ve started getting comfortable navigating throughout Rome, and we have our first field trip of the week. This time, it’s to a different city: Tivoli. About an hour bus ride from Rome, this city sits in the hills, overlooking the Roman countryside. The goal for the day was to visit two villas: Villa Adriana, and Villa d’Este.

Our first stop was Villa Adriana. The massive villa is almost two thousand years old, and was built as a retreat for the Roman Emperor Hadrian. At the entrance, there’s a long pool that reaches all the way to the edge of a cliff. If you look out over the cliff, you can see all of the countryside between Tivoli and Rome, and even see St. Peter’s Basilica on the horizon. It’s no wonder that Emperor Hadrian wanted to build a retreat here. It’s a serene, remote location, far enough away from the chaos of Rome.

The majority of the rest of the villa was composed of the remains of what once was there. There were the remains of various buildings, from temples, to living quarters, and even to bathing areas. In one area, you could even see some of the original marble that the entire building was once covered in. It was a glimpse into the past at what once must have been an incredible building. It’s insane to think that the ancient Romans were capable of building an entire villa that is able to remain two thousand years later.

After visiting Villa Adriana, we drove a short distance to the other end of Tivoli, where we reached Villa d’Este. This villa is unlike any property I’ve seen before. Inside the villa, there is exceptional art on the ceilings and walls, but what this villa is really known for is its gardens. The gardens are terraced all down the hillside outside of the villa itself. However, what makes the gardens even more magnificent than the beautiful greenery is their fountains. The villa employed an extensive irrigation system that connected numerous extravagant fountains all throughout the property.

The fountains range from small to big, anywhere from a small stream out of a wall that you can drink from, to huge spouts of water that reach multiple stories in height. In the fountain pictured to the right, you could even walk up onto small terraces between the spouts of water that looked out onto the remainder of the property. The fountains were so extravagant, there was even one that could make music. As water flowed into the fountain, it ran through the different pipes of an organ, creating beautiful music that played in conjunction with the running water. It was exceptional, and something I couldn’t have even fathomed existing.

We finished our tour of the villa with one more incredible view, standing on a balcony overlooking the countryside between Tivoli and Rome. The day trip was full of unexpected beauty, and was the best way to kick off our second to last week in Rome.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Walking Through History

By Jessica Helfond

During the program, there were two field trips every week. Our first field trip during the first week started off pretty big with the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. They are two of the most iconic locations in Rome, and after going there, it’s not difficult to see why. 

We started off with the Roman Forum, which are the remnants of the ancient Roman city center. It was the center of ancient life, and it was incredible to be standing where so much was happening thousands of years ago.

Walking through the forum, we were surrounded by buildings that once served as capital buildings for the Roman Republic. Nearby, we could even see Palatine Hill, which is one of the most ancient parts of Rome and stands on a hill that overlooks the entire Forum. The most amazing part of the Forum was seeing all of the huge structures that were still standing from so long ago. Additionally, the fact that the ancient Romans could build such large structures with little to no technological help is absolutely insane. We spent about two hours in the forum and were able to see all that remained, while getting a history lesson from our tour guide on the role the forum played in ancient Roman society.

After the Forum, we walked a short distance over to the Colosseum, which was hands down the most iconic place we visited. The building itself is HUGE. It’s way bigger in person than any pictures can ever do it justice.

The Colosseum had multiple levels before you could walk out into the arena. The different levels were full of different pieces of pottery and mini replicas of the events that took place at the Colosseum. The arena, which can hold 50,000 spectators was used for everything from gladiatorial contests, to mock battles, animal hunts, reenactments, and even executions. Every person that would come and watch had assigned seats, so they would sit in the same location every time to watch the spectacle of the day.

We were finally able to go to the upper level of the arena where you could walk around inside, and finally seeing the inside of the Colosseum was breathtaking. We were able to see all the way down to the center of the arena, where all of the different battles and shows took place. Our view was what the ancient Romans would have seen when they were sitting and watching the contests below them, and it was indescribable to be able to put ourselves in their shoes. Again, our tour guide gave us a rich history lesson of everything that used to happen in the arena. Being able to learn while actually being in the location made it so much more meaningful because we could actually see where everything took place and understand what the atmosphere would have been like so long ago.

Our field trip to the Roman Forum and Colosseum was one of the most enriching trips we had while on the program. It was incredible to actually see the places you usually only learn about in history books, and these places are a must see while in Rome.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Visit to The Vatican

By Jessica Helfond

During our second week of the program, we took a field trip to Vatican City. This was the field trip I was looking forward to the most because I had heard so much about the beautiful art and history the Vatican held. Plus, it has important religious significance, which made it even more special to visit. I was not disappointed by what we saw. In my opinion, it was the most incredible place we visited during our month in Rome.

While here, we had a guided tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museum has some of the most beautiful art in the entire world. It holds masterpieces, from work by Michelangelo to work by Raphael, and even more. 

In the Vatican Museum, there are four rooms painted by Raphael, fittingly named the Raphael Rooms. The walls of the rooms are covered in various paintings, from scenes of papal ceremonies to scenes with the most famous philosophers. For example, “School of Athens” shows Plato and Aristotle walking down stairs in the center of the painting. They’re surrounded by nearly every significant ancient Greek philosopher or scientist. The painting is incredible, with colors that are still as vibrant today as they were when originally painted. The painting also has such incredible details, it’s almost as if it’s a picture. 

After the Vatican Museum, we visited the Sistine Chapel. No photography is allowed in the chapel because of its religious significance, but the chapel is magnificent. The entire chapelwalls and ceilingare covered in Michelangelo’s frescoes. He painted the entire chapel completely on his own in twenty months. There are various religious scenes all along the ceiling and walls, with incredible colors, shadows, and details. It’s incredible that one person was able to paint such an immaculate work of art. 

After exiting the Sistine Chapel, we went into St. Peter’s Basilica. Walking into the building is breathtaking. You’re greeted with an immense room, complete with pillars that reach high into the air and ceilings that curve even higher. The basilica is so large, the floor is engraved with a list of other basilicas that can all fit inside of St. Peter’s basilica. The ceilings have the most incredible detailing on them, and much of the room has shining gold accents. To the right and left, there are separate rooms that are filled with spectacular paintings, sculptures, and artwork.

At the end of the main aisle, there is a massive bronze masterpiece, known as the baldachin, which was sculpted by Bernini—an incredibly famous sculptor from the 17th century. The basilica is full of beautiful artwork, and you can spend hours looking around and still find new things to see. It’s incredible to think that such incredible artwork was created with such little technology, and still remains standing as beautiful as ever. 

Vatican City, complete with the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica holds some of the most beautiful sights in the world. It’s a must see in Rome, and an incredible experience. It’s my favorite thing I saw in all of Italy, and I hope one day to go back to see its beauty again.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | 24 Hours in Florence

By Jessica Helfond

After our third week in Rome, our entire program took a trip to Florence. This trip was my favorite weekend in the program because we were able to explore an entirely new city. On Friday morning, we all took a charter bus to Florence, which was about a 4 hour ride. Once we got there, we had some free time in which we got pasta and gelato for lunch.

After lunch, we had to meet by the Duomo. We were walking in a small alleyway, and all the sudden the road opened up to a giant piazza and we were able to see Florence’s famous Duomo for the first time. The architecture is so detailed, and the building has such intricate designs with red and green coloring. It was the most beautiful exterior of a building I saw throughout the entire program. Once we finished admiring the building, we all climbed the watchtower, located right next to the Duomo. There were over 400 stairs, and it was a trek to say the least. However, the view made it more than worth it. We could stop as we made our way up and were able to look out over the rust colored rooftops of Florence. 

Finally, we reached the top, and the best view was revealed: the famous domed rooftop of the Duomo. Domed buildings were very rare in Italian architecture when this was built, and it was amazing that they could get (and keep) such a large dome structure standing. We were at the highest point of the city, and could see all of the surrounding areas. It was an absolutely breathtaking view, and made the climb more than worth it.

After we made our way back down, we had free time for the afternoon until dinner later in the evening. With our free time, we decided to explore Florence, and of course did a little bit of shopping. After wandering around the city for a while, we decided to go to Piazzale Michelangelo, which was a viewpoint across the river that overlooked the main city center of Florence.

The view was absolutely beautiful, and we were able to see the famous Arno River, Ponte Vecchio, and Duomo from afar. We then walked back down along the river, all the way to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. This is one of the most iconic spots in Florence, and has a TON of shops (especially for jewelry) all along it. We were able to admire yet another one of Florence’s beautiful views as we walked along the bridge, and eventually made our way to the restaurant where we ate dinner.

We had a great dinner with a variety of bruschetta, meats, and cheeses for appetizers, and then meat and potatoes for dinner. They were classic Florentine dishes, as opposed to the pasta Rome is so well known for. Dinner was so fun because we were able to talk for hours while enjoying a great meal. In Italy, that’s what food is all about: being able to share it with your company as you chat the evening away. It was a great end to an incredible day. Our trip to Florence was one of my favorite parts of my entire study abroad experience, and I completely recommend visiting this charming city.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Gelato, Gelato, and…More Gelato

By Jessica Helfond

I know I already posted about food, but I feel as though dessert is deserving of its own post. Because let’s be honest, we all know dessert in Italy is incredible. Rome is known for its specific desserts, and they are each done to absolute perfection.

Let’s get started with the big one: gelato. The gelato in Rome is unlike any sort of ice cream dessert I have ever tasted before. Gelato in Rome was so soft and creamy, and had the most incredible flavor. A quick tip on how to know if the gelato is good: it should be very soft and smooth, and should NOT be firm. Say goodbye to the scoops we know in America, and hello to smooth, creamy goodness. 

Most gelato shops in Rome had a wide variety of fruity flavors, considering southern Italy (near Rome) is known for growing incredible citrus fruits, and the tuscany region is known for growing other delicious fruits. The fruity flavors ranged from lemon to strawberry, and even all the way to peach and melon. 

While the fruity flavors are all delicious, I’m going to be honest and say I’m way more of a chocolate or nut flavored gelato person. And let me tell you, these flavors did not disappoint. As simple as it may seem, dark chocolate gelato was one of my favorite flavors, despite having tried far more exciting ones. It’s simple, yet so good. Plus, it goes great with so many other flavors. Some other flavors I liked were tiramisu (I’ll discuss the actual dessert later) and coffee (although be warned: coffee in Italy is STRONG). Another one of my favorite combinations was hazelnut and pistachio gelato. 

I have to throw in my personal favorite gelato shop: Frigidarium. Located about 10 minutes southwest of the Pantheon, spending 2 euros on a huge, delicious gelato was a no brainer most days. Plus, it was right by our study center, so how could we resist going? They had a special flavor named after their shop: Frigidarium. It was chocolate and cookie flavored, and the best gelato I had my entire month in Rome. I also loved this shop because you had the option of getting either whipped cream, dark chocolate, or white chocolate on top, plus a cookie. Needless to say, gelato in Rome is an absolute MUST HAVE. It makes for a great after dinner dessert, or even a mid-afternoon snack to try to beat the heat.

Although gelato reigns supreme, I do have to mention a few other sweet treats. Rome was full of shops that had Sicilian cannolis. They had cream flavored, pistachio flavored (my personal favorite), orange flavored, and even nutella filled cannolis. They’re a perfect little dessert to have with an espresso in the afternoon, or just because they’re delicious.

And last, but by no means least: homemade tiramisu. Most restaurants will have this for dessert after dinner or lunch, and I could not recommend it more. Plus, many restaurants like to put their own twist on it, so it’s great to try it at a variety of places. 

Needless to say, desserts in Rome are absolutely divine. The ingredients are so fresh, which creates desserts with incredible flavor. So go forth, and try all of the gelato. You will not be disappointed.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Decisions, Decisions…

By Jessica Helfond

In this blogpost, I thought it was only fitting to tell you how I ended up studying abroad in Rome in the first place. So, that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

My decision to study abroad in Rome was a pretty easy one. For as long as I can remember, Italy has been my #1 travel location. Over the years, I spent hours and hours looking up pictures and tips from other people’s trips to Italy (and yes, I do have a corresponding pinterest board to prove it). From the incredible food, to the beautiful art and architecture, and even to the rich history, I was deeply interested in and excited by Italy.

When I was in high school, I learned about studying abroad in college. I always thought that would be so cool. Taking classes in a foreign country? What’s not to love about that? So, I knew I had to eventually study abroad in college. Combine my desire to study abroad with my interest for Italian culture, and that’s when I knew I was going to somehow find a way to study abroad in Italy.

And now we fast forward to fall 2018: my first quarter at UCLA. I had been talking to some friends who were a year older than me and were planning on studying abroad the following summer. This sparked my interest. I ended up going back to my dorm, and googling studying abroad during the summer at UCLA. And that’s how I ended up on the UCLA International Education Office webpage. I ended up clicking the summer travel study option and searching by country, and saw that there were two programs in Italy. 

After looking at the classes offered by each program, it was clear that the Italian Renaissance and Modernity program was the one for me. Somehow, the classes offered perfectly aligned with the classes I still needed to take at my time at UCLA. I needed a historical analysis GE and to fulfill my language requirement, which were two of the three classes available to take during the program (don’t worry, a full blog post on academics is coming soon).

So, I scheduled an appointment with the Italian program coordinator, Jenn. That meeting told me everything I needed to know, from housing accommodations, to tips for traveling abroad, and even to scholarship options. And I’ll be honest, as someone who had never even been out of the country before, I needed all the help I could get. After a few more meetings and several phone calls to my parents, I had registered to study abroad during Summer 2019 in Rome, Italy. 

My decision to study abroad in the Italian Renaissance and Modernity program in Rome was easy. It was the perfect location with the perfect classes. I know it isn’t that easy for everyone, but there are plenty of resources to help you figure out where and how to study abroad, starting with UCLA’s advisors. They helped me figure out how to go on an adventure of a lifetime, and I would not have ended up studying abroad without them.

So, even if you have only the slightest interest in studying abroad, do some research. Talk to people. Inquire. It doesn’t hurt to ask around. And who knows, if you do end up studying abroad, it just might end up being one of the best choices you’ve ever made. I know mine was.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Religion in Rome

By Jessica Helfond

Rome is known for being a religious epicenter, given its rich history with the Catholic church over the centuries. Although Rome is widely known for being right near Vatican City, it’s home to more than just the famous St. Peter’s Basilica. Scattered all throughout Rome are numerous other churches, which are full of beautiful artwork and architecture. The churches throughout Rome are often housed in very plain, discreet buildings; however, you walk in and they are anything but simple.

I’ll start with one church our professor took us to: the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica. It was a plain white building, but when we entered the building, there were immaculately painted walls and ceilings. This church is actually where (most of) Saint Catherine’s body is buried. I say “most of” because her head and one of her pointer fingers are still in Siena, where she lived most of her life. This is because they’re kept as religious relics, which is what allows someone to call a church a basilica. For those of you that don’t know, St. Catherine of Siena had religious visions starting at a very young age. She dictated them to a scribe because she never learned how to write. She also wrote letters to the pope himself, telling him to bring the papacy back to Rome. At this time, the papacy had moved to Avignon, France. It was remarkable that at this time a young girl was telling the popeone of the most powerful men in the worldwhat to do. 

Back to talking about the church—it was absolutely beautiful. There were a bunch of smaller chapels inside with gorgeous paintings. Even if you’re not religious, this church is absolutely beautiful to see. There is incredible artwork, architecture, and stained glass windows. Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting to see.

Another church I would recommend going into is the Pantheon. The Pantheon is another one of Rome’s iconic buildings given its rich history. Although it’s famous, I didn’t know the Pantheon was a church until I went inside and saw the altar. The building itself is incredible—it’s one of Rome’s only domed buildings. Not only is the building a dome, but it’s built of concrete, which is so difficult to make structurally sound in a dome shape. Yet another incredible feature of the roof is the hole in the middle of it. In the past, the ancient Romans were able to tell what time it was based on where the sun fell inside the building.

The Pantheon is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in all of Rome, and is a must see while in the eternal city. As a quick sidenote, there’s a DELICIOUS gelato shop right near the Pantheon. It’s a sicilian gelato shop, which means it’s known for its citrus flavors—the citrus symphony flavor was incredible. I would also recommend their dark chocolate and walnut, ricotta, and honey flavors.

Now, back to churches in Rome (I couldn’t resist mentioning gelato briefly). Going into random churches led me to see beautiful sights that I would have no idea were there otherwise. It’s always a good idea to go explore and see what you can find—you never know what treasures you’ll stumble upon.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Advice for Your Time Abroad

By Jessica Helfond

My month in Rome was full of unexpected twists and turns. While it all ended up okay, there are a few things I wish I knew before leaving. Here’s some general advice for studying abroad, mixed with some specific tips for studying abroad in Rome.

1. Try new things.

I know what you’re thinking. No kidding, Jessica. Of course you’re going to be trying new things while in a foreign country. Yes, I know it sounds self explanatory! But I do think it’s important to keep in mind. While in a foreign country, you’re constantly surrounded by new, unfamiliar things. Literally everything is different. Because of this unfamiliarity, it can be easy to want to fall back into old habits to find something that feels familiar. Like getting spaghetti every night. Or not going on a spontaneous walk around the city, and instead staying in bed and watching your favorite feel-good show on Netflix. But trust me, keep putting yourself out there and try new things and you won’t regret it. The whole point of going abroad is to have new experiences, and it’s important to keep that in mind throughout your entire trip.

2. Don’t be afraid to be more assertive than normal.

I know, this sounds weird. But this tip is specifically for Rome. Italians are known to be more aggressive. Not in a scary, I’m going to fight you way, but more in a general sense. You have to ask for what you want, especially in a setting like a coffee shop. Waiters aren’t going to be super polite like they are in America (probably because in Italy there are no tips, so they don’t really care), and people aren’t going to wait around for you to make a choice. So you have to know what you want and ask for it, and if you do, you’ll end up getting it.

3. You don’t always need a plan.

Some of my favorite days were spent just wandering around Rome. It’s so fun to explore a new city, and you never know just exactly what you’re going to find. So don’t be afraid to go out for the day and see where it takes you–odds are it’ll be better than you could have imagined.

4. Bring good walking shoes.

I can’t stress this enough. I was told this before I went, but I didn’t realize that Italians walk literally everywhere. I walked over 175 miles in 4 weeks in Rome, so PLEASE bring good walking shoes.

5. Bring extra euros. And then bring a few more.

I made the mistake of not bringing enough euros. I didn’t realize that so many small transactions are based on cash (especially all those two euro gelato purchases). If you run out of euros, you have to find an ATM that most likely has terrible exchange rates and usage fees, so you’ll end up spending way more money than you want. Using cash is ESSENTIAL, so bring more euros than you think you’ll need. Odds are, you’ll use them.

6. Public transportation will be ridiculously crowded. It’s okay.

I can’t even describe how crowded public transit in Rome is. Imagine a bus or metro with so many bodies in it, you are pressed up against people all around you (if you can’t imagine that, think about sardines in a can). It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not. There are times when it’s so crowded, the vehicle cannot physically hold another body. As unpleasant as that sounds, it’s not that bad. There’s always air conditioning, and you aren’t really on transit for that long, so it goes by quick. 

7. You will make it through.

This is more of a general study abroad trip. Being in an unfamiliar country can seem overwhelming. Now put the stress of taking classes (that do, in fact, count for your GPA) on top of that, and it can seem like way too much. However, it’s doable. And despite how crazy the classes may seem, there’s plenty of time to have fun, make new friends, and go on new adventures while studying abroad. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime chance, and it’s something that I truly think everyone should experience.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Exploring all the Pasta-bilities

By Jessica Helfond

On our first day, our program coordinator told us one VERY important thing to keep in mind while in Rome: food is everything. And let me tell you, he was not kidding. As I’m sure you know, the main food dishes in Italy are pasta and pizza. However, the pizza and pasta in Rome were unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. 

There was a small pizza shop a minute down the road from where classes were held, and it was the best pizza I had in Rome. You were able to have them cut the pizza to the size you wanted, and could choose from a wide variety of toppings. It made for a quick, but delicious lunch in between classes.

As a quick sidenote, I would personally recommend pizza with pesto on it. Pesto was one of my favorite foods I tried throughout my time there. And yes, I’ve had pesto before, but none of it even came close to being as delicious as pesto in Italy. It’s made with olive oil, pine nuts, and a variety of herbs. So simple, yet SO good. Pesto is also delicious on pasta. I had it on gnocchi quite often, which is my favorite type of pasta. They’re technically potato dumplings, but they take the place of pasta in most dishes. They are so filling and absolutely delicious, and can even be mixed with meat or fish, like the shrimp I had with my pesto gnocchi.

The ingredients used for all food dishes are unbelievably fresh. The tomatoes are so sweet, the cheese is fresh, and every pasta you find is handmade. There is no shortage of pasta in Rome; in fact, Rome is known for four specific pasta dishes: cacio e pepe, spaghetti alla carbonara, bucatini all’Amatriciana, and pasta alla gricia. I know that none of those names mean anything to you at this point, so let me break it down. Cacio e pepe translates to cheese and pepper, and that’s literally what the dish is. It’s a long noodle with a cheese based sauce and black pepper. It sounds simple, but it’s delicious nonetheless.  Spaghetti alla carbonara (often known as just carbonara) is another long noodle dish, made with egg, cheese, some type of ham (often pancetta or bacon), and black pepper. Bucatini all’Amatriciana uses long noodles, this time in a tomato sauce with cheese, black pepper, and pork. Finally, pasta alla gricia is a long noodle with cheese, pork, and pepper. As you can tell, each dish is fairly similar in ingredients; however, the slight variations make for huge differences in flavor. Each dish is delicious, and I would recommend trying each of them to get the full experience of Roman cuisine.

Finally (although I suppose I should be saying firstly), I come to antipasto, or appetizers. My two favorite appetizers were bruschetta and ham with melon (yes, you heard me right). Bruschetta is fresh tomatoes, often mixed with olive oil and herbs on top of toasted bread. Each place you go does their bruschetta slightly differently, so it’s fun to go try all different types. There’s also bruschetta with other types of toppings, like ham and cheese, which I would also recommend trying. And last, but by no means least: ham and melon. I know, the combination sounds so odd. I thought so too when I first heard it. But try it, and believe me, you’ll think the combination is absolutely genius. The sweetness of the cantaloupe melon combined with the saltiness of the prosciutto ham go together so perfectly, it’s unbelievable. Both of these appetizers are so simple, yet are some of the most delicious food I had while in Rome.

When in Rome, I encourage you to go out of your comfort zone and try the local cuisine. It is some of the best food I have ever tasted; you will never be disappointed with a meal. And remember: Food. Is. Everything.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019.