From: Emily Date: January 15, 2006 7:23:34 PM EST Subject: Sunday

Hello All,

I had the most fabulous day ever!! By far the best day in Rome since I’ve been here… This morning I got up to go to the American church by Piazza della Republica, Santa Susanna, which took 45 minutes to walk to; here in Rome that doesn’t seem so far when you are doing it, you just sort of do, nothing like at home where we drive for everything out of convenience. It was nice to be in a place where people speak English yet are still living in Rome. I met one of the sisters who is positioned here from California and who encouraged me to sing with the choir on Sundays- anyone who wants to can do it, not a very formal thing. I may when I am here to try to meet more people. I did a tour of the church after mass; it’s an interesting church, Santa Susanna. It was completely redone by one of the popes around the time St Peter’s was being built so they commissioned a student of Michelangelo to do the frescos. It was closed to the public for 300 years while it was under the control of the cloistered nuns up until 1920, so it is in very good condition; no cleaning had to be done from burning of oil or candles. It was built on top of the remains of the house where Susanna lived. I met a man who works for the American embassy and his family and talked about my studies with him; he said that if we wanted a tour of the embassy for our class to give him a call and he would set it up for us.

Image by Fotografo Matrimonio Roma

After church I wandered around for awhile on my own to sketch. It was so nice to be on my own for a bit instead of with people/roommates like I am 24/7, even sleeping.  During my explorations, I literally turned a corner and saw the Colosseum for the first time.  What a moment!  To be going about your own business and stumble upon one of the most famous sites in the world.  I had a few people ask me for directions and if I spoke English so maybe I am beginning to blend in! Near the forum I had a British couple tell me to watch out for a group of teenagers ahead that tried to accost them, so I held on tight to my bag, put down the shades and walked like I belonged there, looking straight ahead. I could see them sizing me up, but they left me alone. There were other people around as well or I would have gone to the other side of the street.

Closer to the apartment, I wandered around the Campo for a bit (Campo di Fiori the site of the market and many cute shops and boutiques) then headed home with many hours and miles of walking behind me. Early evening went to the grocery store with the girls and bought Harry Potter 6 in Italian. I figure that when I don’t have anything else to do I can take the book and my dictionary and sit and translate to practice.

Later on, back at the Campo, there was a crafts market going on- wish I had more money with me because the things were fabulous! That was on the way to the Irish bar, the Abbey Theatre, to watch dem Stillerz play da Coltz. L and I have now developed a tradition of doing Irish car bombs during the games to ensure the victory of the Steelers. I think we may get known for it because we challenge each other to who can finish first and everyone watches the two crazy girls chug their beer… Our goal was to only pay for one drink and get someone to buy us the next since we will go broke if we keep getting our own! It ended up working better than we had planned… we got a shot each from each of the bartenders for 1) congrats on the car bombs and 2) for putting up with the insane old men Steelers fans next to us. Then convinced old man #1 to buy us a drink and later old man #2 bought us each a martini. Pretty proud of ourselves as were only hoping for one and ended up with 4. Feeling good when we left (but NOT drunk mom, so don’t worry, just happy. Mom’s fallingasleepreallyfast” story has caught on with my friends and is now a favorite expression).

Guilio, an Italian we met last night, called me to meet up after the game so L and I met him and his friend in Campo di Fiori. My roommates and I have a strict policy of not going anywhere with people we don’t know by ourselves, especially at night. So we met Guilio and Vincenzo in the Campo and went down the street to a Turkish bar/cafe, which was one of the coolest places I have ever been. The four of us spent most of the time there swapping English and Italian tongue twisters, i.e.- how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? They are well educated, traveled, and just really cool people. Not like most of the creepy Italians we’ve met, like the high school boys who tried to hit on all of us last night! They started singing opera when we left and were telling us where and what we should go see for the opera.

All in all it was by far the best night in Rome I’ve had yet. And only on day 8 or so it can only get better! Tomorrow morning I’m going back to the Campo to market so I can cook our roommates dinner tomorrow night and perhaps sketch if it’s not too cold! It definitely can get rather chilly here in January. I hope to buy a cool coat here since it is too cold to take off an outer layer and would like a second option. Slowly beginning to feel like I’m Italianizing… I love it.

Off to bed now and to try to memorize Rascal Flatt songs so Lauren and I have something to sing back to the Italians in exchange for their opera…

Lots of love…


Rome – finding art


From: Emily Date: January 12, 2006 2:31:53 PM EST   Subject: Moving into Rome

Ciao Ragazzi!

This seems like a good time to write again. We’ve explored, begun class, and met some more people. We have taken to hitting up the market at Campo di Fiori several mornings a week, picking up what we need for the day, for me mostly being oranges. They have bags of spice mixes for various recipes; I bought one for pasta sauce and it smells like everything Italy encompasses. Mix it in with some sauce over fresh made ravioli and there is no reason to ever want to eat frozen dinners again. Class has pretty much been the death march of Rome, Monday and Wednesday walking for 3 hours each to see both the sites we will be working on and others to compare them to.

Tuesday night we went out to explore Trestevere again and discovered that Tues is perhaps the least happenin’ night of the week. I went home to sleep while the other roomates met some Italians at a very Bohemian bar. We had two of them over for dinner last night, one who speaks English very well and sings like a canary (as in too much) and another who knows about as much English as I know Italian. It was amusing trying to converse back and forth, quite a struggle, but interesting being able to have two totally different knowledges of the English language to talk to, learning bit by bit of Italian. One thing we are learning about italians is that their idea of time is totally different from ours. It takes a half hour to say goodbye and they don’t understand that whole overstaying your welcome thing.

The more I walk around Rome the more I think Trastevere is the best place to live. Yes, I am becoming a Trastevere snob. I hope the Christmas lights stay up along the streets for awhile, it ads some more of that Bohemian character to the area. We are slowly trying more places, restaurants, bars, ect. Yesterday I got gelato “pinoli” that had pine nuts in it and was AMAZING.

Today we woke up late and L, Kelly and I decide to go to the gallery at Pallazio Barbarini; we literally power-walked two miles to get there in time. Luckily it is still the off-season so there weren’t many people there. We were there for only a few minutes when an old man named Alessandro who worked there started talking to us and gave us a private tour around the gallery. It was fantastic because it made the visit mean so much more, actually understanding what they meant instead of just looking at them. The ceiling of the main hall is the famous “Triumph of Divine Providence” by Pietro da Cortona, which took 7 years to complete. I believe it is in most of the art history books, look for the ceiling with the three gold bees, the crest of the Barbarini family. The first thing that took my breath away there was the paintings by Carravagio. It was just too bad that my art history class was 4 years ago!

Just up the street was the Church of San Carlo delle Quattro Fontane. There were two men at the front of this tiny church playing an organ and pipe whistle, sounding like we just stepped into the Middle Ages. The inside is a bright plaster-white, the light enteing from glass windows in the dome and gold details highlighting the paintings. Carved flowers adorn every nitch and doorway.

Up the road is the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria which houses the Ecstasy of St Teresa by Bernini. Gold and marble of every color and pattern adorn every surface. Cherubs and angels climb the arches and play on the cornices. Candles sit and lamps hang down- I wish they were real because I can just imagine the erie casts of light they would make against the gold. Theresa is on the left in her own theatre, the men watching as the firey arrow of God pierces her. Simply amazing. Across the street is Santa Susana, the American church in Rome where they conduct services in English. I think I may want to go there this weekend, it is a much bigger church, comparatively.

Back from our church exploration we walked past all the government buildings of Rome and realized for the first time that all the police carry machine guns. Terrified me rather a bit…. walking by the second time L smiles and says to me “See? They didn’t even shoot you!” Well, thank god for that.

Saturday our class is doing a tour of the villas around Rome then we are meeting some of the Italians from the other night to hang out.

Ci vediamo!

Ema (as Alessandro spells it!)


Art Gallery


Church of San Carlo delle Quattro Fontane


Super blurry picture of Bernini’s Saint Teresa in Ecstacy


Rome – Here we go Steelers


From: Emily Date: January 9, 2006 3:14:38 PM EST  To: All

Subject: Here we go Steelers!

So last night we decided that being the diehard Pittsburgh fans that we are we must find the game on somewhere. I remembered SL putting the Abbey Theatre on the map she made us and hearing from some of our classmates it seemed like a good bet. The Abbey Theatre is an Irish pub near Piazza Navona that plays all of the major NFL games that us crazy Americans can’t go without. It took us forever to get there because the alignment of streets on the map is totally different than what it is in reality. When we finally reached it we found nothing less than crazy Steelers and Bengals fans cheering on their respective games, but brethren underneath it all, a few fellow Americans in the Eternal City. There were Italians looking in the window and laughing at us. They definitely think we are insane in our love of American football. One of our friends, ran into a guy he went to high school with who is here studying architecture. Who knew? Across the world in a foreign city to see someone you actually know!

We just finished dinner, fresh made pasta from a place here in Trastevere. There is no better dinner than with 6 of your friends; good food, good wine, good music, good company. So far I think this is my favorite part of being in Rome… you just walk down the road and get everything you need at all these different stores. Tell the signora at the pasta shop how many people you have and she gives you an appropriate amount for that. Go down the street for bread and they treat you like kings. What a place to be…

Con ama (with love),



8 genaio 2006

This morning we went to the flea market in Porta Portese. It is insane! They are selling everything you could possibly imagine- jewelry, shoes, pillows, clothes, books, kitchen supplies, bags…much of it junk or stolen, but sometimes you can find something nice, you just have to dig. It goes on for at least a half mile and is so crowded that if you lost someone you would never find them again. Kelly, L and I held hands or coats as we shuffled our way through. I don’t think I will go there again, at least not the way we found it, which was through some very rundown neighborhood on the wrong side of Viale Trastevere.

We walked back along the river and went to a cute,small restaurant on Via della Scala with good sandwiches. I had a salmon sandwich with a thick tortilla bread and an accua tonica. It is very close to where we live and one side is a bar. Convenient. I’m still full from lunch and can definitely see myself eating only one meal a day.

This evening L and I walked to the hill above Trastevere to Piazza San Pietro, at the spot where Saint Peter was believed to be crucified. Bramante’s Tempieto is right there! It was built in the 15th century after the original church was torn down and rebuilt. It is supposed to be the purest of Romanesque architecture I believe. We walked around it and down some steps to try to look inside, but the light was too faded by then to see. We kept going up the hill past the fountain where you can see out to the whole city. At the top of the hill is Villa Aurelia where Garibaldi had his headquarters when the papacy fell and republic took over. Past the park there is a place where you can look out to the city and the other way you can see St Peter’s basilica. Amazing sight, if you ignore the necking couples!

Tonight we are going to go to an Irish pub, of all places, to see if the Steeler’s game is on as we heard rumored.



What a fantastic Irish Pub to watch American football! All the Italians were stopping by the window to look at the crazy Americans jump and scream at guys in spandex throwing a ball at each other. B ran into a guy he went to high school with who is studying architecture here this semester. How crazy is that??

With friends at the Abbey Theater

With friends at the Abbey Theatre


From: Emily  Date: January 8, 2006 12:13:15 PM EST  To: All

Subject: il segundo giorno in Roma

Ciao ragazzi!

We’ve made it through 2 days in Rome! I think I dislocated my shoulder from carrying my bags all over two continents and spending 8 hours in the Toronto airport. Our apartment is fabulous and we have the nicest landlord, Luigi. As we have heard from another LArchie we have the best apartment; it’s two levels with a living room, bathroom and kitchen on ground level and the bedrooms below with one tiny window in the door. I have to share a bed with my friend Kelly, which so far, being one night, is not so bad, just a rock-hard bed. I think we have one of the best areas of town, called Trastevere. The people here are very proud of their neighborhood, it is very old with tiny winding streets, across the river from Roma centrale.

Let me try to describe Trastevere… the streets are a combination of parking, driving, walking, socializing. Sidewalks are only a suggestion here and you always have to be on the lookout for the scooters and tiny SmartCars that zoom through the streets. Most of the piazzas are not what you would imagine, they are not big like Piazza Navona where all the major festivals are held. Instead they are the intersections of streets or just where the street widens so people can gather, cars can park, or markets can be held. There are bars and cafes and stores tucked into every corner, you can hardly believe that people can find them, but there is hardly a street or corner where you don’t find people.

Last night we went to a restaurant down the street from us and became friendly with the waitress there. She was very nice and helped us with ordering and our Italian. She is an architecture student in Rome; I believe architecture in Europe encompasses landscape architecture as well because it sounded a lot like what we are doing. She gave us her number and another waiter’s and told us to call them to go out sometime. They don’t go out until LATE (they weren’t until 3am when they got off) and as we hadn’t slept in two days we decided to pass and just walked around the town instead. There is always something going on here. One of the best times to explore is early in the morning because there are less people out and it is easier to see things. L and I found a dry cleaner, shoe repair, theatre.

Even the seagulls sound different here! Their calls to each other must be in Italian as well… Today we walked all over the city to get a feel for it. We started out in Campo di Fiori where there is an amazing market. I bought oranges and ate them all day. I can’t wait to go back on Monday to buy fruit and vegetables and anything else my bag can hold. We mostly wandered and almost literally stumbled upon the Pantheon. It quite took my breath away. Some of the other monuments we saw included the Forum, the Trevi fountain (I really had to resist playing Sylvia), Spanish Steps, the Monumento nacionale (affectionately- not really- called the wedding cake, commissioned by Mussolini). It was wandering for about 5 hours and definitely a respectable number of miles.

We have wireless internet in our apartment so we are all relaxing and sending emails. I’m planning on staying in tonight to catch up on sleep and so I can get up early and go to the flea market in Porta Portese. There are currently 9 of us in our apartment of 6; we have become the place to go for internet since it is cheaper than going to the cafes. We’re considering charging 1 euro anytime our friends want to come over to help us pay for it, but definitely a better deal than 2 Euro a half hour at the cafes.

Escribeme! Ok, so that was Spanish, but whatever…I’m learning 🙂


-Ema (as I shall be known in Italia… hehe; Em to the rest of you)


Me enjoying my orange on the steps of the Campadolgio

Day 1

5 genaio 2006

We are getting ready to leave Toronto and I can officially say that I am terrified. It’s not a vacation; I am going to be living here for 4 months. Starting to wonder what in the world I was thinking. I generally don’t like talking to people in English, much less Italian. There is no turning back…

So now it’s us three, Kelly, N and I. The woman in front of me has extended her seat the entire way and my backpack is shoved and squished only halfway under the seat, so my leg room is near zero. We spent eight hours in the Toronto airport! Getting onto the plane from Pittsburgh we walked down the ramp to an empty opening and went “Where’s the plane??” Didn’t realize that it would be a puddlehopper… Oh well…adventure to adventure.

6 genaio 2006


I saw the most beautiful sunrise this morning. It started out with a single star and rim of light across the horizon with the rest of the sky filling with stars and the Big Dipper. Slowly the colors across the clouds turned to gold and red, spreading like a sheet, the light growing, turning to pink, then back to gold; the clouds look like a pillow of cotton, so solid you want to bounce on them.

We are flying across a freaking mountain range. Snow covered peaks stretching across the entire distance of the eye. The snow comes to an abrupt end as we reach the sea. I wish I knew exactly what country we are over. My breath is literally taken away, the whole cliché. I can’t tell if there are buildings along the shore, buildings or just large rocks.


First day in Roma! Ashley arrived at the airport the same time as us and we all found the car to bring us into the city.  The driver was very nice, telling us about the city as we were driving from Fiumicino, weaving in and out on the freeway between tiny cars and motos, cypress trees as still as the traffic was fast.  Luigie, the owner of our apartment, was adorable.  He wears a stocking hat that’s native habitat should either be on the ski slope or in “The Night Before Christmas.” He is coming back tomorrow to collect the rent, giving us time to figure out how to obtain our money in a foreign country. The apartment e molta bella. Very tiny with the kitchen, living room and bathroom on the first floor and the bedrooms below and only one window in the front door. Kelly and I are sharing a bed with L on the single in the same room, Ashley and N in the other double, and S with the single in the hall. The door key here is definitely unique – skeleton-eque – and it’s hilarious to watch us struggling to get the hang of it. This afternoon we walked up to Roma Centro where I had a near-breakdown because I couldn’t extract money from the ATM. Much worry and three Skype phone calls later, I realize that I just couldn’t take over a certain amount out at a time. Ashley and I walked through Campo di Fiori, then around Trastevere to try to find internet. I was so cracked out, tired, upset and homesick that when Z and B ran into us I practically jumped up and kissed them. It was soooo nice to see people we knew. I have never been so happy to see those guys…

We all rather passed out at the apartment for awhile- N got lost! First day and we lost our roommate! She got called an “American with an ugly sweater” (translation please?!) – I think we all died laughing when she told us. I fell asleep on the couch, drooling on my arm- kinda like how I am falling asleep writing this. Finally we were all together and went out to dinner at someplace down the road with a Guinness sign in the window. We were so obviously dumb Americans, but I think you begin to just embrace it until you’ve been here long enough to know better how to act. The food was amazing and our waitress was so nice to us, helping us figure everything out. She’s our age and studies architecture. We were able to ask her a lot of questions; where is the bancomat, per exemplo. The boy our age gave us directions to some of the clubs and activities here and we got his number from Marta, our waitress. Two Italians on our first night that we may be able to get to know! Very exciting. Oh, Enrico is his name. Once we get our phones hopefully we will call them and go out.

After dinner we just walked around Trastevere- beautiful town, absolutely beautiful. Tomorrow we will explore more. And get boots!

The Journey

In 2006 I spend 4 months studying abroad in Rome, Italy.  Since nearly the day I returned, I have wanted to document the journey, just as Frodo did after his return to the Shire – this is my epic, such as it is.  (I even bought a red leather book that reminded me of his.)  These are my journals, emails, letters, drawings, photographs.  I don’t pretend that they are great pictures or even thrilling stories, but they are my memories and deserve to be recorded.  Much has changed in the past 9 years and I like to think that my time in Rome helped prompt some of those changes for the better; I am certainly a different person now that I was then and this present person would definitely do somethings differently, yet I wouldn’t go back and change anything that was.

As was well-said in one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun:

“Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere.  I would be different.”

Here we go.