Monday, December 31, 2012

Buon Anno!

It is officially 2013 in Italy!! Here's to a new year filled with success, health, and happiness!! 

Below is a webcam shot of Marostica, Italy, my family's hometown. I found it on Various Italian cities, such as Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa, and Rome are available for viewing, along with other cities around the world! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Italy Expression

Once in awhile, I like to get creative on Polyvore, and see what types of Italy photos are on the website.   Today, I created a collage of photos from Milan, Venice, Rome, Capri, and an adorable distressed Italian flag. Daydreaming of Italy today!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Local La Bella Vita

I feel so blessed to live in such a large city, especially because Chicago has a large Italian American population.  There are enough restaurants, festivals, and other activities to partake in when I am just wishing I could visit the boot.

As it is unseasonably warm in the city, one of my sorority sisters and I walked around downtown last night, went to some stores, and checked out the city's holiday decorations.  After awhile, we were parched and looking for a snack so we went to Bar Toma, a modern Italian restaurant.  Although it is not your typical Italian restaurant with pasta plates and cannoli, the atmosphere is typical of the country.  The menu is based in small plates so groups can share easily - similar to a tapas restaurant!

Stratcciatella and Vanilla gelato at Bar Toma!! 

The best part of Bar Toma is that when you feel as if you are in an Italian cafe the second you walk in. With an espresso bar, gelato year round, and various pizzas and appetizers, Bar Toma is a slice of contemporary Italy in downtown Chicago.  Many may long for checked red table cloths and heaping plates of pasta, but Bar Toma provides Chicagoans and tourists with a snapshot of modern Italy.

As someone who went abroad with a romanticized image of the country dancing in her head, I grew to love the Italy I lived in for six and a half weeks. Bar Toma reminds me of Rome.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Roman Sights: The Trevi Fountain

Although some of my greatest memories from my time in Italy were wandering around the streets of Rome, visiting the tourist attractions was still exciting!

On our first day of class at Italiaidea, we went on a walking tour of the city.  Our tour guide took us past famous churches, buildings, and piazzas down various vias and stradas. It was all breathtaking, and I was still in shock that I was actually in Rome. I blindly photographed every building to be sure I remembered my first foray into la citta eterna.

The photo from our walking tour of Rome!

Unfortunately, my first tour of Rome was not on the back of a red vespa, a la Lizzie McGuire. However, my first time at the Trevi Fountain was still a magical experience!

Our tour guide was trying to show us the congested areas filled with visitors from around the world. These were not the areas he suggested exploring for a long time, as everything is more expensive in the area due to massive amounts of tourists.  All of a sudden, I heard running water. Our tour guide informed us that we would soon walk past the Trevi Fountain, and mentioned that it is common to hear the water long before seeing it.

Last night in Rome. 

There were TONS of people. Even though it was crowded, it was beautiful. The majestic white Baroque statues were exactly what I was expecting.  I contained my excitement and squealing by trying to take the most perfect picture. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to sit at the fountain's ledge and toss a coin in my first time visiting, but we made many, many trips past the Trevi during the five week study abroad program. I threw not one, but TWO coins in!

Interesting Fact: The Trevi Fountain yields at least 400 euros a day, and the money is donated to various local charities.

For me, the Trevi Fountain is more than a tourist attraction. Legend says that those who toss a coin into the fountain backwards are destined to return to Rome. As air travel becomes increasingly expensive and life gets insanely busy, it gives me hope that I will be able to regularly return to Italy someday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Italy in the News: Venice is Flooding

I always love reading about Italy in the news. It makes me feel connected to the country and brings back memories from my time there. Recently, parts of Italy have experienced major flooding, from Tuscany all the way to Venice.

As Venice is a city made up of tiny islands, canals take the place of streets and everything is built on water.  When standing in the church in Piazza San Marco, I was able to feel the water moving under the floor! However, heavy rains bring floods. According to the Huffington Post, three quarters of the city is currently flooded. Normal defense methods, such as lifted boards on which residents and visitors walk, are not enough this time. Water is everywhere.

A photo of one of the canals during my trip to Venice in July 2011.

According to the BBC video on Huffington Post, Venetians are normally used to flooding in the fall, but this is the worst recorded flood in six years. Photos on the online news outlet show that even businesses are flooded - rain boots for sale are floating in a shoe store! However, some of my favorite photos are those of people floating in cafe chairs or taking a swim in the piazza.  It truly shows the Italian ideology of la dolce vita. 

Although it seems as though some are enjoying the increase of water in Venice, hopefully it goes down soon.  Too much flood water will do long term damage homes and businesses, greatly affecting countless people. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Musica Italiana

Italian music was constantly present when I was growing up.  My Nonna took care of me while my parents worked, and her way of teaching me Italian was through singing traditional Italian songs. It was after dinner ritual that my Nonna, parents, aunt and I would sing "Un Mazzolin Di Fiori," a traditonal Alpini, or Italian Mountain Solider song about flowers. Singing songs such as this allowed me to learn how to correctly pronounce words at young age, even though I did not know the exact translation.  I was lucky enough to find a YouTube video of the same song, titled "Quel Mazzolin Di Fiori."

As I grew older, it no longer was "cool" to sing "Un Mazzolin Di Fiori" at the dinner table.  However, as I grew up and started taking an interest in pop culture, The Lizzie McGuire Movie came out and modern remixes of old Italian songs were included in the soundtrack. Dean Martin hits "Volare," and "On an Evening in Roma" are two.  The song that truly got me into learning about "Italian Pop" was American singer Vitamin C's cover of Volare for Lizzie McGuire. 

When I started taking Italian in high school, I yearned to discover more Italian music. After searching high and low for current hits, my mother and I found a compilation album from the Sanremo music festival, the Italian leg of Univision.  "Che bella gente" by Simone Christicchi, and "Svegliarsi la mattina" by Zero Assoluto became top played songs in my iPod.  For Christmas, one of my cousins gave me an Eros Ramazzotti greatest hits album. "Cuore Agitati" is now one of my favorite songs. 

Searching "Italian Pop Music" on iTunes also helped me discovered some gems of Italian pop songs. "Happy hour" by Ligabue and "Bella Vera" by 883 are catchy upbeat songs from the late '90s/early 2000's that I still enjoy today.  Even remixes of classic Italian hits, such as "Ti Amo," make me happy.

My Italian friends introduced me to more up to date Italian music during my study abroad trip. Although American hits are usually played in cafe's and bars, some Italian artists are just as popular. Listening to songs by Fabri Fibra, specifically "Le donne," "In Italia," and "Vip in Trip" take me back to Rome and Bari. 

Italian music still brings my family together. Recording artist Patrizio Buanne is a favorite amongst every generation of women in my family, from my Nonna to my little cousins. His original music and covers of classic Italian and Italian American hits make you feel as if you are sipping espresso in a piazza. 

Italian music is diverse, romantic, and catchy. It will always have a special place in my heart! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Study Abroad Memory: Il Rosso e Il Blu

As previously mentioned, my study abroad classes focused on Italian film.  One class discussed the usage of Rome in classic Italian cinema, and the other class discussed issues and culture in contemporary Italian cinema.  As a part of studying contemporary Italian cinema, my classmates, professors and I were invited to the set of Italian director Giuseppe Piccioni's 2012 film, Il Rosso e Il Blu.  It premiered in Italy last month, and I just found the trailer online.  

Il Rosso e Il Blu is a film about the challenges teachers and students face in the Italian public education system, set in liceo, or an Italian high school.  It stars some of the biggest names in Italian film, Riccardo Scamarcio and Margherita Buy.  Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information on the film in English, but the trailer is still worth checking out.  

This movie is also special to me because it was the inspiration behind my final project for my two classes.  I created an integrated marketing plan for the film, studying Italian perspectives on film promotion, and integrating it with American marketing tactics. Although I did not have as much training in public relations and marketing communications then as I do now, I am still proud of it! My professor from Italy asked if she could show my plan to Giuseppe, the director, and as a going away gift, she gave everyone in my study abroad group a red and blue pencil, which is the symbol of the Italian school system! 

Red and Blue pencil! Photo Credit:

The image above is what the title Il Rosso e Il Blu means - the standard pencil Italian teachers use to correct students' work.  The red side of the pencil is used for a wrong answer, and the blue side is used for a correct answer.  

I cannot wait until this film comes out with subtitles!  The trailer even includes clips of two scenes for which my classmates and I were present.  Il Rosso e Il Blu is special to me because sometimes I felt confused with film jargon and technicalities in class, but my marketing plan allowed me to show everyone one of my greatest strengths! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian & Italian American: Cultural Differences

One of the first cultural lessons I learned in Italy was regarding the differences of "Italian" and "Italian American." Growing up as an Italian American, I always thought I knew everything there was to know about life in Italy thanks to firsthand accounts from my Nonna, mom (who lived in Marostica for two months), family friends with dual citizenship, and of course, high school Italian class!

Although I definitely had a better grasp of the culture than most American students studying in Italy, I was surprised to learn that "Italian" customs I was used to from home were not truly Italian. From food to restaurant etiquette, I compiled a list of "Italian" practices that are seen as "American."

"Italian" dishes that are not actually from Italy:
Photo credit:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo - Alfredo sauce is an American concoction! When Italian immigrants first arrived in the United States, many of them needed an affordable way to incorporate more fat into daily meals, so they began to add cream to pasta. Have a craving for a creamier pasta meal while in Italy? Try gnocchi with four cheese sauce, also known as gnocchi ai quattro formaggi! 
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs - Shocking, right!? For many people, this is the quintessential Italian meal, complete with garlic bread and red wine.  However, it is another American creation! Italian immigrants needed a way to quickly cook both meat and pasta, so they cooked meat on top of pasta. Want to incorporate more protein in your authentic Italian meal? Try a bolognese sauce or add a secondo piatto, which is traditionally a meat dish.
"Italian" restaurant customs viewed as "American" while abroad:
Photo credit:

  • Olive oil and bread - At the beginning of most Italian American meals, olive oil and bread is served. However, that is not the case when out to eat in Italy! Native Italians view this practice as something reserved for the home - dipping bread in olive oil and cheese before your meal is not seen as "mature."
  • Family style everything - While family style is definitely present when eating in an Italian home, one does not simply go out to eat and order a pizza for five people.  Portion sizes abroad are smaller   than in the United States, so each person orders   their own dish. I did not think I would be able to finish my food while abroad, but most of the time I did! It is just that good. Plus, walking everywhere is great excercise! 

Additionally, customs viewed as "Italian" in the United States are not necessarily exactly the current custom in Italy.  For example, my family in America goes to church every Sunday.  However, my family in Italy does not go every Sunday, however they do participate in church festivals celebrating different saints. Due to the fact that culture is dynamic, the Italy my Nonna grew up in is not the Italy I visited.

Although there are vast differences in many facets of "Italian" and "Italian American" lifestyles, there are obviously commonalities between the two as well. Going a little deeper than food, both groups of people cherish their family, heritage, and are just striving to live la dolce vita. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

National Pasta Day

Today a PR related Twitter account that I follow informed me that it is National Pasta Day! Of course for Italians, every day is National Pasta Day, but I still think it is a fun way to celebrate a staple food that is known and loved around the world.

To celebrate National Pasta Day, here are some interesting facts about pasta, courtesy of the website Life In Italy:

  • Although it is believed that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from a journey to China, it is also believed that Arab invasions of the 8th Century had an influence on modern dried pasta. 
  • Italians eat over 60 pounds of pasta per year, per person!
  • There are around 350 shapes of dried pasta. 

Photo Credit:

From the perspective of a college student, pasta is cheap and easy to cook, with tons of varieties from which to choose! For example, I recently found "vegetable pasta" at Dominick's, pasta claimed to be made from vegetables such as carrots and beets. It was delicious. I also discovered a recipe for squash-based spaghetti via Pinterest from the food blog, - definitely something I would like to investigate! 

Personally, pasta has always been a staple in my diet due to my Italian heritage. Nonna makes homemade ravioli every Christmas, and my mom makes a delicious penne, chicken, and vegetable dish.     I have countless memories based around it.  Many of my favorite meals during my study abroad experience in Rome consisted of some sort of pasta, specifically gnocchi quattro formaggi - gnocchi with four cheese sauce. Pasta dinners was also one of the ways my little sister in my sorority and I bonded during Chicago's 2011 "Snowpacolypse!" My mom and Nonna's pasta dishes are always welcome comfort food when I am stressed out about work or finals.  

Pasta is perfetto!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Italy in the news

As I was perusing the social media and tech news website, Mashable, this afternoon, I came across the headline "Massive 'Gangnam Style Flash Mob Rides Through Italy [VIDEO]." I immediately clicked the link.  Two of my favorite things - marketing and Italy - in one article! It made my day.

According to the Mashable article by Lorenzo Franceschi-Biccherai, about 9,000 people gathered in Piazza Verdi in Palermo, Sicily last month to dance to South Korean artist Psy's hit song, "Gangnam Style."

As a PR major, I try to stay tuned into the happenings in the public relations, advertising, and media industries, so seeing something related to Italy in the headlines was fantastic!

View the video below:

And you can read the Mashable article here:

Maybe an Italian pop star will record a viral hit someday!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

La Bella Vita, Italian Style!

My recent Italian outfit creation on Polyvore made me reminisce about Italian style.  Learning the style rules and going on shopping trips in Rome were some of the most entertaining memories I have from my study abroad experience.  Prior to leaving, I had a field day packing.  My mother reminded me that Italians were very style conscious, and my sorority sister and I read up on "style rules" or the "Italian dress code." Packing my two suitcases for five weeks was quite the event.

The article "Italian Dress Code?" from provided a nice overview of what Italians typically wear, if you are looking to blend in with the locals.  As a result of these tips, my packing consisted mostly of dresses, skirts, tops, and two pairs of jeans. I brought shorts, but only wore them to class or during the day. In regards to footwear, I packed Sperrys, some sandals, and a pair of wedges.  Lots of walking, combined with cobblestone meant that I usually wore my Sperrys or Reef flip flops - the more comfortable footwear options.  Packing a sweater is also important - many Italian churches require women to cover their knees and shoulders before entering!

A view of the Via Condotti, the Rodeo Drive of Italy.*

On our first day of classes in Rome, we had an Italian culture class, in which we discussed proper verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as the unspoken dress code.  If you are striving to blend in with the locals, no shorts in the evening, and athletic wear is only worn when exercising. Additionally, Dr. Scholl and Birkenstock sandals (in fun colors or metallics, of course), as well as all white outfits are some of the local trends. I strongly recommend rocking an all-white or mostly white outfit at least ONCE when visiting Italy!

Looking put together at all times is important in maintaining the Italian ideal of la bella figura. 

Shopping in Italy was also quite the experience.  Aside from large stores, most vendors, whether it be food, souvenirs, or small businesses, only accept cash.  A lot of commerce takes place outside in markets, although in Rome (and most major cities), there is at least one galleria, or shopping mall.

Popular stores range from global chains such as H&M, Benetton, and Zara to Italian/European brands such as Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Class, Oviesse, and Intimissimi.  For fashion lovers, one perk of visiting Italy in the summer is that June and July are the time for MAJOR sales. Discounts usually start between 25 & 50 percent off!

Although the dollar to Euro conversion is still in Europe's favor, there are some perks to be aware of when shopping in Italy. VAT tax means that you pay sticker price for all items - tax is already added into the value! Additionally, if non-European Union citizens purchase luxury items upwards of 150 euros (this amount usually varies by country), they are elegible for a VAT tax refund.  Rick Steves' website provides great info on VAT tax refunds.

(Top left photo: galleria in the heart of Rome*)

Even with a stronger Euro, sometimes it is more economical to purchase luxury items in Europe than in the U.S. due to import taxes.  For example, items at global stores such as Zara, Benetton, and H&M don't pay import tax in the European Union, and will be less expensive in Italy.  Additionally, I found that it is possible to save at least $50 on Longchamp totes when purchasing in Europe due to no import tax!

A child size Vespa in an Italian toy store!*

Since travel to Europe is pricey, it is important to be economical in purchasing and packing - hopefully these tips will be helpful when planning a trip to the boot!

*All photos are my own

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Italian Inspired Outfit!

Growing up, I often heard that the stereotypical outfit for an Italian American was head to toe black - even on my high school Italian class field trips, everyone dressed in dark colors.  While I love a good neutral, and black is flattering on everyone, dressing colorfully is much more fun! 

On Chi-rish Day, the day of the St. Patty's Day Parade in Chicago, I pay tribute to my Irish half of my family by wearing green and orange.  So why not give my Italian heritage a nod with a red, white and green outfit? The best part is, this is also versatile for holidays such as Christmas and St. Joseph's Day! 

I decided to base my outfit off of the Italian flag. After researching the meaning of the three colors, I learned that they do not have set significance except for kingdoms and city states merging together  in order to create modern Italy. provides some great information about the flag's history and examples of previous government flags! 

So without further ado, here is a screenshot of my Polyvore creation:

I will definitely have to pack an outfit similar to this for my next visit to La Citta Eterna!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Italian Pinterest Find: Believe in Your Dreams

I recently found this photo on Pinterest and I adore it.  It perfectly describes my attitude about many things, including my decision to study in Rome last summer. Believing in your dreams and being proactive about attaining them are essential to la bella vita. 

A Look at Summer's Italian Findings

Now that I am halfway through Fall Quarter of my senior year, I finally found time to sit down and write.  Summer was crazy - my dream internship was a fantastic experience, and it definitely prepared me for the professional world.  Fall at DePaul has been hectic as well. As a Panhellenic officer, sorority recruitment was busy but so exciting - a record number of women joined our chapters this year! In the midst of it all, I still found time to reminisce about Italy and keep a little bit of it alive in Chicago.

AC Roma Football (Soccer) at Wrigley Field

My family and I attended AC Roma's soccer game at Wrigley Field in July. It was so great to see Italy fans out and about on the North Side, and Roma won!

Festa Italiana on Taylor Street

Complete with a model Trevi Fountain, Festa Italiana is an Italy-lover's dream come true.  Taylor Street vendors set up booths with food, drinks, and dessert, and fest attendees stayed entertained with old fashioned Italian music, a Bocce tournament, and a meatball eating contest.  Magnifico! 

I cannot wait to feature more fabulous Italian findings on La Bella Vita!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wanderlust: Rome

"Wanderlust is a German word that means 'a strong desire to travel'"

YouTube video series Wanderlust makes a stop in Italy with a series about Rome.  The sights and streets make me feel as though I just returned, and the travelers' excitement reminds me of how I felt a year ago, and how I still feel today.

My favorite part is when they head to the Metro - SO FUNNY!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

#studyabroadwithdrawls - I was in Italy one year ago

Exactly one year ago I finished my first week of class in Rome and was spending the weekend in Sorrento. This year, I am about to finish week three of my dream internship, but pictures from this year's Rome class are in my Facebook newsfeed since I have a sorority sister in the program this year. Memories are starting to flood back.

I still cannot believe that it has already been one year since I walked the cobblestone streets of la citta eterna, ate gnocchi and gelato almost every day, frolicked in piazzas and on the Tiber River, and longed for free bread, water, and ice at restaurants.

Luckily, Chicago has a lot of Italian influence! Although it is not truly Rome, a trip to Davanti Enoteca, Mario's Italian Ice, and the AS Roma soccer game at Wrigley Field are in order! Chicago has a riverwalk too, but unfortunately that will definitely not measure up to the Tiber River's bean bag filled restaurant/bar.

I know I will return to Italy someday, I just don't know when. But, as the random quote I found on Polyvore says: "Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." 

Also, I threw TWO coins into the Trevi Fountain, so I will be going back!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Video Tribute to Rome

For my Video Editing final, I had to make a Stealomatic of anything I wanted. Obviously, I had to make it Italy themed! Set to the Rome Remix by Phoenix, it is a combination of my photos and shots from Federico Fellini's film, Roma. Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another Italian inspired photo!

San Pellegrino bottle and my Colosseo and Trevi Fountain statues. Taken with Instagram.

Gioielli Turistici

When I was abroad, I bought one of these bracelets for each major city I visited, with the exception of Sorrento/Pompeii/Capri and Bari. Such a great way to reminisce! Taken with Instagram.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Becoming Italian: Gelato, Cappuccino, and Shopping

While living in another country, you develop a daily routine.  After reaching our "bottom of the W," experiencing Campi dei Fiori (to which we paid many visits during our time in Rome!), we were able to embrace the Italian way of life as much as American college students are able to.  

Incorporating gelato into one's diet is an essential part of living "la dolce vita," and truly living like an Italian.  If you have never tasted gelato, try an American version of it.  And if you've had true Italian gelato, you understand when I say that there is no gelato like gelato in Italy.  Magnificence.  

Gelato 101:
  • Blue Ice is a popular Roman gelato chain store - overpriced and low quality; only frequent in desperate times. 
  • OLD BRIDGE, right next to the Vatican wall, is THE BEST GELATO IN ROME. The line winds around the street, but it is completely worth it.  You get so much gelato for a euro fifity. Che bello!
  • I reccomend cioccolato, nocciola, ricotta, and stracciatella.  Pistachio is also apparently delicious. 
  • Eat gelato every day while in Italy. You will not regret it.  
I also became a coffee drinker while in Italy.  Really, I never drank the beverage regularly before that - just a few sips as a child and that is it! However, I was introduced to cappuccino and espresso, which completely changed everything.  Sitting through screenings and discussions was long and tiring, so cappuccino breaks were common among myself and my friends. 

Grocery shopping is another way we acclimated ourselves to Italian life. Restaurants in Rome are pricey due to the influx of tourists, however, the true way to eat well and eat cheap in la citta eterna is to grocery shop. Food is insanely cheaper there than it is eating out every night.  Although we definitely ate in a ton of trattorias, pizzerias, and vinerias, eating at home also became common - especially in the morning! 

Food was one of my favorite parts of my Italian experience.  However, another fantastic part of Rome was definitely the shopping.  I could definitely go into detail about every shop we visited in Rome, but that is for another post.  From the galleria to small shops on random side streets to the Via Condotti and chain stores we fell in love with, regular shopping and window shopping were both a part of the daily routine - after all, when else are you a student in Rome!? 

Breakfast, lunch, class, shopping, dinner, and going out became routine.  Some of the best memories from Rome were class excursions, shopping trips, and dinners. I miss it every day. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Campo dei Fiori, Italy's cultural melting pot

Upon returning to Rome after our weekend on the Amalfi Coast, my entire group just wanted familiarity.  Returning to Rome was like returning home to Chicago after traveling. Magnificent.

I still remember a bunch of us going to dinner right after getting back to Residence Candia. It was Sunday, after 7, which meant almost nothing was open. Luckily, a little trattoria on Via Candia was, so we were able to eat!  After eating pizza and seafood all weekend, it felt so good to dig into a plate of pasta, along with bread and olive oil. Delicious.

During the week, we were determined to explore Italy during the day and at night. Our professor/tour guide for the initial Roman walking tour told us that Campo dei Fiori was the piazza where the American college students congregated at night - we were all craving a little bit of home at that point, so we decided to check it out.

Campo dei Fiori on the Fourth of July! 

One of my close friends who studied in Rome in fall 2011 told me about Scholars, an Irish pub near Campo dei Fiori - complete with karaoke and a student night.  Sloppy Sam's, an American bar/grill, complete with MTV, baseball, and American style food, is also located right in the center of the piazza. The perfect solution for homesick college students.

Scholars "Student Night" was just what we needed. T-shirts from universities across the U.S., Ireland, and the U.K. adorned the walls and songs such as "Livin on a Prayer" and "Sweet Caroline" blared from the speakers. We felt right at home.

This experience made me realize that the term "melting pot" does not just apply to the U.S.

Melting pots are everywhere, especially in Campo dei Fiori. It is where people, in this case students, from around the world come together to simultaneously enjoy Italy and embrace their native cultures.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

To Rome With Love - Woody Allen's newest film

Rome is magnificent because there is so much going on at once.  From street markets to performances to film shoots.  Yes, film shoots - it was one of the best parts about studying film there. My classmates and I had the opportunity to visit Cinecitta, Rome's version of Universal Studios and visit the set of an on-production film, Il Rosso e Il Blu.  However, those were just the scheduled film-realted field trips we took.  One night, we ran into the set of Woody Allen's film, To Rome With Love!

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Woody Allen, and Ellen Paige, the film is a story about love and the Eternal City.  Check out the trailer below:

Experiential learning was one of my favorite parts of studying abroad.  It is so cool to think that I saw the cast and crew shoot a part of this film.  We were even able to get close to Woody Allen's tent! 

To Rome With Love on location at Largo Argentina - Roman ruins at which many believe Cesar was killed, now serves as a cat sancturay! 

Erica and Cody trying to get a glimpse of Woody Allen! 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Bottom of the W Part 2: Sorrento Seafood Dinner

As previously mentioned, my study abroad friends and I experienced "the Bottom of the W" when we were in Sorrento, Pompeii, and Capri.

The Term "bottom of the W" is the way DePaul study abroad explains culture shock.  Due to my Italian American upbringing, I figured that the differences between Italy and America would not be too bad.  I was wrong, especially when visiting Sorrento.

In our Italian culture class, we were warned that there were cultural practices that differed between the two countries, especially in regards to food.  Our dinner in Sorrento was a prime example of this.  For starters, Italians get offended if you do not finish everything that is put in front of you - to them, it means that whoever prepared the food is not a good cook. 

Additionally, our courses all contained seafood.  Not many of us on the trip liked seafood.  I was a good sport and tried some of it - octopus for example.  Not a fan, but I tried it.

The main course is where some of us lucked out and some of us did not. We were told to choose between assorted seafood and steak. Some of us sat with our Italian culture professor and she ordered us fried calamari and shrimp.  The rest of our group mostly opted for the assorted seafood, and were served fish...with faces. 

In Italy, fish is served with the face still in tact because a fish's eyes determine its freshness (fun fact from one of my cousins!).  However, at the moment this was a horrifying experience.

This dinner, combined with our late night adventures documented in my previous post, brought all 16 of us to the "bottom of our Ws" at the same time.  Unusual for a study abroad group, but it bonded us together.

Sorrento opened my eyes to the differences between Italy and America.  As a second generation Italian American, I thought I knew so much about Italy.  My first full week there showed me that the two countries have many differences.  However, culture shock is completely normal, and only temporary!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pizza, Mountains, and the Bottom of the W Part 1: Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri

The first weekend my study abroad group was together, we took our group excursion to Italy's Amalfi coast, visiting Pompeii and Capri while staying in Sorrento.  Our weekend away from the hustle and bustle (and tourists) of Rome was quite memorable, and really bonded the majority of us in the group.  

Pompeii - An Archaeological Wonder? 

I was so excited to see Pompeii - I remember visiting the Pompeii exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum during my freshman year of high school and was so excited to see such a cool sight firsthand.  While the tour of the ancient city was interesting, all of the "cool stuff" is not there - it is touring various museums around the world! 

Pompeii was exciting for 20 minutes - once you've seen the basics, you've seen it all.  
Pompeiian garden. 

Capri - Beautifully Deceiving

The day we went to Capri was fantastic. We hopped on a boat on a beautiful morning, and everyone got to take turns driving once we were far enough away from the coast! We had a delicious lunch, and jumped into the Tyrrhenian Sea for a swim.  The scenery was gorgeous and it was a great time to work on my tan.  

Then my friend Sandy got seasick.  We were on that boat for a few minutes too long.  

Once we docked in Capri, we were all excited to sit on a gorgeous beach and explore our surroundings.  However, the following events took place:
  • Using the bathroom costs 50 cents.
  • The "public beach" is filled with pebbles. 
  • Beach chairs cost 8 euros. 
  • The tram to "Capri Alto," the city center/piazza, cost two euros. 
  • Everything is expensive. 
  • It was disgustingly hot.
We decided to get a beach chair for Sandy so she could rest.  Erica, Maura, Steph and I decided to walk up to Capri Alto to save 4 dollars (or 2 euros). Big mistake. Walking up to the piazza was like climbing a mountain.  It was one of the worst experiences of my life and a test of physical endurance. 

Boat tour of Capri.
After making it up to the piazza we celebrated by sitting at the main cafe for a very long time and making friends with our charming waiter who resembled Italian singer Patrizio Buanne.  It was magnificent.  

Until a pigeon flew into the gelato stand - it was terrifying (I hate pigeons).  I lost my desire for a gelato after that. 

Overall, Capri was a humorous experience.  

Sorrento - The Bottom of the W

Sorrento will always have a dear place in my heart. It is breathtakingly beautiful and one of those cities that is quintessentially "Italian." Our first evening in Sorrento was spent at a mountain villa at a pizza making lesson.  We ate the most delicious pizza (second to Nonnas!!) in the entire world.  There was even Nutella pizza for dessert.  Magnificent.  Beautiful. 

The view from the mountain villa!!

To put it nicely, our second dinner in the costal city was interesting.  Three words: fish with faces. Some of us had the good fortune of sitting with our Italian professor and her daughter, who came on the trip with us - she knew what we were in for, and ordered us fried calamari and shrimp.  However, since we were all worn out and exhausted from our day at Capri, this was the Bottom of the W for our whole group (more on that later!).  The locals were slightly offended.  At least the lemon cake was good. I wanted a second piece. 

Amalfi Coast. 

My advice to American girls visiting Sorrento - always stay in groups.  This is the city in which we learned how much we Americans are "adored" by the Italians.  There were a lot of unwanted whistles and stares.  Our group attempted to go to a "discoteca" named Old English both nights we were visiting.  First of all, they played the exact same music (American pop circa 2007) on Friday and Saturday nights.  On Saturday, a large group of creepy Italian men were also in attendance - luckily the group of us was a mix of girls and guys, we got out of there as soon as any of them started talking to us.  Note, do not enter the dance floor of a sketchy "discoteca." 

Although there is not much to do at night, Sorrento during the day has fantastic shopping and adorable cafes.  We even saw some famous Italians walking around!  It was not the perfect weekend by any means, but it was definitely entertaining! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Italian Inspiration - My Italy Pinterest Board

When I miss Italy, which is almost every day, I love adding stuff to my Italy Pinterest board!

It brings back fantastic memories.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Roman Basics - Neighborhoods and Transit

On the first day of class in Italy, one of our Italian professors told us that Rome was constructed to confuse people.  Make one wrong turn and you are lost for hours. The city was also not built to accommodate any large motor vehicles - walking in the middle of the street is acceptable, but also life threatening.

Luckily, with an accurate map of the city and guidance from experienced navigators, anyone (and I mean anyone) can navigate the Eternal City. 

Public transportation: the easiest way to get around the city.  Buy a transit pass and use it everywhere - but make sure it's validated!

  •  The Metro: there are two lines, the A line and the B line.  They only intersect at Termini - one of the most    chaotic parts of the city, due to the large amount of tourists and residents that pass through to switch trains. 
  • The Bus System:  the bus system is numerical, just like Chicago.  Each stop lists the route.  Make sure you ask the driver if the bus will take you to your desired destination - most Romans speak English, so it should not be a problem! 

Unfortunately, there are downsides to the Italian transit system.  The metro closes at 9, buses at 11 or midnight. Strikes take place frequently, as the case was on our last full day in the city, which means you are stuck walking or taking a cab (aka you are stuck walking).  The constant need to walk everywhere is why it is also important to know a few major streets and neighborhoods as well!

  • Cipro: The neighborhood in which Vatican City & Castel Sant'Angelo are, off the Cipro stop on the A line. Somewhat more residential and not the Rome you see in the movies, but it has its redeeming qualities. 
  • Trastevere: The least modernized area of Rome, also known as "Hipster Rome" by some of my favorite sorority sisters/study abroad companions. Home to film director Giuseppe Piccioni's bookstore and a plethora of fantastic restaurants and bars, it is definitely an area to wander around in - opposite from the city center on the Tiber River. 
  • Spagna: The center of the city, the historical district. Rome of the movies. Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Colisseum, Roman Ruins, the Via Condotti, fantastic shopping, close to all of the piazzas. Spend most of your time in this area - it's easy to get to the rest of the city from this area.
On getting a cab: Hailing a cab is a foreign concept in Italy.  There is a number to call, or you can go to one of the cab pickup areas in the city. Only use official government cabs. Good luck. 

Navigating Rome may be a challenge, but some of my favorite memories were getting lost and wandering the city streets, finding new favorite places - it makes your experience unique! 

Lazio win Rome derby - Football - Al Jazeera English

Lazio win Rome derby - Football - Al Jazeera English

Just saw this calcio update! I wish the season had been over the summer!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Italy Inspiration - "Rome" by Phoenix

New favorite song, even though it's not so new.

"Focus looking forward the Colisseum...Rome, Rome, Rome, many tears have fallen here"

Just a reminder of one of my favorite cities.

Rome: La Citta Eterna

I arrived in Rome on June 19, 2011. The first thing I noticed was that Rome in real life is not like Rome in the Lizzie McGuire Movie. Red Vespas don't line the streets - Yamaha motos do. Silly as it sounds, the lack of red Vespas was probably the biggest disappointment when I arrived.  

Finally spending time with my study abroad group was so exciting - and seeing my friend/sister, Erica! We hadn't seen each other since the going away dinner some of our sorority sisters threw us so that was fun. Looking back, another part of my arrival in Rome was significant, although I didn't realize it then.  I had a hard time opening the door to the apartment/hotel room five of us were living in. Luckily, one of my roommates heard me struggling and opened the door for me - it was none other than Maura, who is now one of my sorority sisters as well! Sharing a room with someone for five weeks can be good or bad; luckily it worked out well for the two of us!

Via Candia, the street I lived on!
And my first photo of Italy.
This was a great balcony because it had better WiFi than the rest of the apartment. 

We all went to dinner at one of the only restaurants opened late on a Sunday, and apparently made a bunch of cultural faux pas.  Here is the list:
1. We asked for olive oil and cheese with our bread.
2. Cappuccino after dinner.
3. Tipping - not such a bad faux pas for the restaurant, but it's not common in Italy, especially for students to do so.

That night, we went on a late night walk around our neighborhood - Cipro to be exact - which was a ton of fun (and I had a great time being the translator!).

At the time, Cipro was a boring neighborhood to stay in, and I would never suggest someone spend a ton of time there, but now I would do anything to go back! That night was the start of a ton of great memories for my study abroad group - I am glad that most of us keep in touch today!

Feste di Sant'Antonio - Feast of Saint Anthony

Another one of my favorite experiences in Valenzano was celebrating the feast of Saint Anthony with my friends and their community.  Feast days are a HUGE deal in Italy.  In fact, a lot of people celebrate their "name day" or patron saint's feast day more so than their birthday.

Here's an example to explain feast days/name days.  My brother's name is Joseph, and he was born on March 25th. St. Joseph's Day is March 19th, so he gets to celebrate on the 19th as well. 
Valenzano's All Saint's Fair in 1998. Not exactly like the feast I attended, but close!
Photo credit:

Saint Anthony is one of the patron saints of Valenzano - the church in the center of town is named for him. Additionally, Antonio is the name of my Nonna Carmela's late husband (and my friends' father and grandfather) - so it has special meaning to them. 

Valenzano celebrates the feast with a big outdoor party in the piazza by the church. Food, drinks, music, dancing.  Different community groups, such as my friends' theater organization, sponsor booths and raise money for the church.  

I really enjoyed meeting my friends' neighbors and friends. It definitely helped me practice my Italian, and telling a ton of people involved with theater that I planned on studying film in Rome made me feel cool :)

We headed to an "American" restaurant for a late dinner - apparently American food is trendy in southern Italy.  Italians know their food, and the Italian spin on American fare is definitely more delicious than it is at home - with the exception that it is popular to mix ketchup and mayo for your french fries! 

I'll always remember my time in southern Italy, it was a fantastic mini-vacation before classes in Rome started! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Alberobello & Bari Centro

Aside from driving and walking through the towns near Bari, Alberobello and Bari Centro were fantastic places to visit!

Alberobello is a small town in the provence, known for its huts, or trulli.  It is quite the tourist destination in Puglia - the trulli are now set up as shops that sell a variety of items such as pottery, pasta, wine, and sweets! I was even able to climb up to the top of one of them, the view of the rest of the town was fantastic!

Alberobello trulli.
Photo credit: famous

If you ever visit Southern Italy, I highly recommend a day trip to Alberobello!

Bari Centro is downtown Bari, right on the Adriatic Sea.  The port city is beautiful, mysterious, and exciting all at the same time.  While it is not the size of Rome or Milan, there is something about it that made me wish I had more time to explore the city (even though I'm not so sure there is much to explore).

Piazza Sant'Oronzo at night.
Photo credit: virtual

Piazza Sant'Oronzo is the center of everything on a Friday night. Bars, pubs, and cafes are filled with people enjoying the weekend.  The piazza is a central part of a young Italian's social life - hanging out there on a weekend night is quite the experience!

More Musings on Southern Italy

As stated in my previous post, my weekend in Southern Italy helped me adjust to living in a new culture.  It was also so surreal.  I dreamt about Italy for years before actually having the opportunity to experience it; I had to keep telling myself I was there! 

I enjoyed spending time with and getting to know my Italian friends better and getting a taste of what life is like in their part of the world.  My friend Antonio showed me around a few of the neighboring towns, which was really fun! I enjoyed seeing a part of Italy that is not normally on the agenda for an American tourist.  

I really wish I took pictures of the towns surrounding Bari.  One in particular that I enjoyed was Pogliano a Mare - I have a mini snow globe as a reminder of the gorgeous town on the Adriatic sea! 

The beach I visited in Pogliano a Mare! 
Photo credit:

I hope I have the opportunity to return and visit again! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sweet Summertime in Southern Italy

After landing in Rome on June 16, 2011, the first place I visited was Bari, and its surrounding towns.  My mom and aunts' good friend Nuccia lives in a nearby town called Valenzano with her husband, sons and mother - they are one part of another Italian family we consider close friends.  

Spending time with my friends in southern Italy was a great introduction to living in a new culture for a few reasons.  First of all, I was able to adjust to the language and way of life with people I know well.  Additionally, my family friends have experience living in America as well, and speak English, even though I tried my best to only speak Italian! 

One lesson I learned about speaking another language (specifically on my five hour car ride from Rome to Bari with my friends Francesco and Antonio) is that getting your point across is much more important than conjugating a verb correctly! My Italian greatly improved as a result of my time with my family friends - it definitely got me ready to speak only Italian with my cousins in Northern Italy!

I really enjoyed my long weekend in Valenzano - it is definitely not Lizzie McGuire's Italy, but it is beautiful in its own way.  I plan on utilizing my next few posts to highlight some of my favorite memories of my weekend in the Puglia region!

A street in Valenzano! 
photo credit:

To start off, my favorite part of visiting Bari/Puglia/Valenzano was that I was able to get to know my family friends better - especially my friends Francesco and Antonio, who are both closer in age with me than any of my first cousins are.  I absolutely loved sitting on the terrace eating lunch and dinner with Nuccia, Michele, Nonna Carmela, Francesco, Antonio, and even Roy the adorable puppy! 

My Nonna's best friend Carmela (aka Nonna Carmela) is a fantastic cook - I definitely ate well! Pasta, pizza, cotoletta - my mouth is watering just thinking about all the food.  

I was also introduced to the amazingness that is cappuccino. Now, I must have some form of espresso drink at some point in the day. 

Southern Italy was a fantastic introduction to life in a foreign country.  My one regret is that I was so nervous/jet lagged, I forgot to take pictures! 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Italy Inspiration - A Romanticized Land

I chose to study in Italy to embrace half of my heritage. I grew up constantly hearing and occasionally speaking my Nonna's (grandmother's) native language and hearing stories about my mother and aunts' adventures visiting our relatives and friends.

Although I am second generation Italian American, my family genuinely embraces our heritage and we try our best to stay updated on the current state of the motherland. 

However, I have to admit, I grew up in the era of boy bands and quality Disney stars - I was a huge Lizzie McGuire fan. 

photo credit:

Strange as it seems, The Lizzie McGuire Movie is definitely one of my many Italian inspirations.  It may not be high quality Italian cinema, but it captured 11-year-old Colette's imagination, and it is still a movie I thoroughly enjoy.

Lizzie McGuire was an awkward middle school girl - as a young teenager, I identified with her.  She finally gains confidence at the end of the film - so naturally, growing up I always associated Italy with confidence and true happiness.  Although Hollywood's version of Italy is definitely romanticized, for me, Italy truly does have a something special about it - even amid today's economic and political turmoil.

It just so happens that my Disney guilty pleasure is airing on WGN - what a lovely Sunday surprise before my sorority's chapter meeting!

I never noticed some of the famous landmarks appearing the movie - my favorite part of watching it now is that I can tell exactly where some of the scenes were shot! For example, the fireworks scene halfway through the film is definitely near Castel Sant'Angelo for the feast of St. Peters - a Roman celebration in which my friends and I were able to take part!

Some of my photos from St. Peter festivities:

Although the Lizzie McGuire Movie presents a highly romanticized Rome - the core spirit of La Citta' Eterna e' lo stesso!*

*translation: e' lo stesso = is the same

One Year Ago...

"Quando si chiuda una porta, si apre sempre un portone."

When one door closes, another one always opens.

photo credit:

Just about a year ago, I was accepted to study film in Rome during DePaul's summer session - this experience is proof that this quote is true. My sophomore year of college started off ending a three year relationship that really shaped me as a person.  Yes, I know that there is much more to the world than romance and dating, but to the 19-year-old me, this was a big deal.  Little did I know, that closing one major door in my life allowed me to open so many more - including living the dream for a month and a half.

Studying abroad during the summer was a major decision for me.  I am a career oriented person, and planned on applying for advertising or PR internships in Chicago.  However, when one of my closest friends and sorority sisters told me she was applying to the new College of Communication Rome program, I had to look into it.  With my family's support, I put my heart into a series of essay questions, faculty recommendations, and one annoying passport application.  The work, tears, and nerves resulted in the best early birthday present ever - I was accepted to the program, along with one of my best friends!

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Spring quarter dragged on and flew by at the same time. Before I knew it, I was boarding a plane to Munich at O'Hare. I was excited and terrified at the same time - it was the second time I ever flew by myself, and my first experience in international travel.

The longest plane ride of my life resulted in the most amazing experience. Although Rome was over six months ago, I still reflect on my experiences every day.

I strive to keep a part of Italy - in some way, shape,  or form - present in my life in Chicago!