Monday, January 29, 2007

December 2006 - Rome, Italy - Farewell to Classmates

We spent a good part of this week saying good bye to our school friends and our neighborhood, Trastevere.

Here is Kenny with our teacher Federica.

Here are some pics of our class reading poems written by our fellow classmates.

We also went out to dinner with 2 of our classmates - John (from London) and Juliana (from N.E. Germany).

Here we are at il Convivio Troiano, a Michelin-starred restaurant near Piazza Navona. The food is superb and the service is even better. We particularly loved the waiter whose job it is to walk around and shave an enormous white truffle over certain dishes.

And here we are at Myosotis, a rustic Italian but cuisinee restaurant also in the Piazza Navona area.

After our Swedish classmates (Ana & Klara) took their final Italian exam, we took them out for drinks at Campo dei Fiori and dancing at La Maison, one of the two nightclubs in Rome's historic center.

Here's Kenny with Ana on the left and Klara on the right. Unfortunately, we could not snap a picture without some random dude forcing his way in. We have no idea who this guy is.

Here's a shot of us with Klara and the English guy who tagged along from Sloppy Sam's - our first stop in Campo dei Fiori - and some other random guy that jumped into the picture at the last second.

Finally, an inebriated Kenny threatens to steal this sporty "moto" from its poor unsuspecting owner who foolishly left it unattended on the sidewalk in the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

December 2006 - Rome, Italy - Farewell to Trastevere

Here are some pictures of Trastevere and Rome's historic center that show the sites we saw everday on our way to and from school. It's no wonder why we fell in love with this city.

Here's the street around the corner from our apartment that we walk down every day which leads to the main street that cuts through Trastevere - Lungaretta.

And here's a close-up of the bell tower (and Rome's amazing blue sky) in the last picture, just one one of the many bell towers in Trastevere that wakes us up every morning.

This is the Tram that transported us in and out of Trastevere.

Here's us on the Tram heading towards the historic center of Rome, crossing Ponte Garibaldi, with Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) in the background.

And here's a clear shot of Isola Tiberina, the top of the Synagogue on left perched above the trees of the old Jewish ghetto, and Rome's crisp blue skies (by the way, this is what Rome looks like every single day - the best weather we've ever experienced anywhere!).

This is Largo Argentina in Rome's historic center - the final stop of the Tram and the site of Julius Caesar's murder. These ruins now house Rome's famous cat sanctuary.

From Largo Argentina, we hop on a bus and we're off to school down Corso Vittorio Emmanuel II.

Sometimes, before class, we'd go shopping on Via del Corso - Rome's primary commercial thoroughfare from Piazza Venezia (and the Vittorio Emmanuel "wedding cake" monument) in the center of town to Piazza del Popolo at the north end. Here's Casandra in Piazza Colonna, a large square on Corso.

And here's the towering column of Marcus Aurelius in the center of the square, on top of which, at the command of the Pope, of course, is St. Peter in the place of the Roman Emperor.

As we would continue on towards school, we'd often pass the Italian Parliament building, pictured here behind Casandra.

Here's a great shot of Piazza Navona, down the street from school. After a morning of shopping in the Via del Corso area, we'd typically walk through this square on our way to school.

Basically the same shot of the square but with us in our standard self-portrait position (after 200 or so of these, I've gotten pretty good at this left-handed shot).

On this particular day, the Piazza hosted an enormous Christmas street fair. No, that's not a giant sombrero balancing awkwardly on Casandra's head. It's a carousel erected in the middle of the square especially for this holiday fair.

Here's Casandra in front of some of the vendors selling wreaths and other Christmas plants and flowers.

Every now and then, after class, we walk home rather than taking the bus and tram. After crossing through Campo dei Fiori, we head down this lively street.

Here's the view of St. Peter's Basilica from Ponte Garibaldi which we took (on foot or by tram) everyday on our way home.

We couldn't leave Trastevere without one more dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Jaipur - a fabulous family-run North Indian restaurant.

After dinner, we walked down Lungaretta towards the center of Trastevere. It's always packed with locals, tourists and, of course, the ubiquitous black-market street vendors. I considered buying a "Rolex", "Mont Blanc" pen, or mini tripod (which seems to be the most peddled item in town) - I don't know how they can sell these things for so cheap! - but Casandra counseled against it.

Finally, here's a great shot of the main square and church in our neighborhood - Santa Maria in Trastevere - which was just around the corner from our apartment. It's very charming, always lively, and packed with locals - definitely one of our favorite squares in all of Rome.

And here's a great shot looking down Santa Maria's nave towards the Baldachino above the main alter and the gold mosaic-tiled niche behind it. It's one of Rome's oldest churches, constructed and added on to over the course of many centuries, having early christian, medieval, renaissance and baroque elements.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

December 2006 - Frascati & the Castelli Romani, Italy

We spent our last weekend in Rome touring Frascati and the Castelli Romani. This is a region of the state of Lazio that is about 1 hour outside the city of Rome.

This region is made up of a series of hill towns known for wine-making, primarily Frascati wine, and delicious and rustic cuisine.

We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Flora, which has an ideal location right in the center of town.

Here is Kenny in front of the Smart Car we rented, at our very swank Hotel Flora.

We took a walk through the picturesque Frascati, passing by San Pietro (Frascati's duomo) located in the town's central square.

And by the Villa Aldobrandini, which belongs to one of Rome's most prominent families.

Frascati also has a park and a central circle, adjacent to Villa Aldobrandini, which is perfect for evening strolls and views of the many hills surrounding Rome.

Here is a shot of the famouse Theater of the Fountains located in Frascati's primary park.

We stopped to have a late lunch at a quaint local restaurant, Cacciani with amazing food, wine and atmosphere.

We particularly loved the sun lit terrace with beautiful views of the hill towns.

Though we were full from dinner, we weren't (and seem to never be) too full to stop for gelato at this great gelateria, which looked like a South Beach restaurant.

From Frascati we drove to several other hill towns including Albano, famous for Castelgandolfo - the Pope's summer estate overlooking Lake Albano.

In Albano, we strolled through the town's lovely park and took some great sepia pictures,

we discovered a beautiful medieval church,

and we had a wonderful lunch at Osteria L'Antico Forno. We particularly loved the filet mignon with a black truffle spread smeared all over it. We also loved our waiter and the chef who engaged us in conversation and helped us practice our italian for over an hour.

We also stopped in the very quaint Grottaferatta and took some pictures of this hill top town as we drove by.

We stopped to enjoy the fall foliage still present in December thanks to global warming.

Finally, we returned to Frascati and had lunch at Zaraza - a family run, no-menu restaurant with excellent food.

And back to Rome we went.