When we last left off, Tim was tired and hungry in Rome. In today's installment, Tim is still in Rome, he's still tired, and he's been getting progressively less hungry after surviving the opening four days of the semester, which will henceforth be known as "The Hunger Games". Over the weekend, we Centristi were left to fend for ourselves until the Centro kitchen's grand opening bright and early on Monday morning. Given our lack of knowledge of the area and our general jetlag, that meant spending most of Saturday and Sunday with a near-empty stomach scavenging for food. Some of the more adventurous types got out and about to start exploring the city; I, meanwhile, had the misfortune of sleeping past or through every. single. excursion. (Which of course meant missing out on lunch and having to choose between corn flakes and pizza two days in a row.)
Thankfully, on Saturday night I managed to be awake just long enough to catch a group that was going down the street to a Sicilian restaurant, where the manager spoke English (nota bene: the restaurant is a mere block away from the Centro, so he's probably dealt with our situation many many times previously) and was even gracious enough to decipher the bill for us. While most of my group opted for the ravioli that night, I (in a shockingly out of character move) went with the rigatoni with pistachio cream sauce. Yes, the rumors are true: Italian pasta is better.
Sunday I slept through a trip to the Vatican to see the Pope and, distraught at missing it for having been unable to fall asleep until 3:30 AM, spent most of the afternoon pacing inside. Since many businesses in our neighborhood are closed on Sundays, either for the full day or for longer stretches of time, I resigned myself to pizza for dinner, again (remember that pizza was the dinner du jour on days 1 and 2 ), but only after going to mass at the adorable chapel that shares a wall with the Centro. Though the service was entirely in Italian, I found myself able to start picking things up. It helps, of course, that I'm already familiar with liturgical language in English.
Determined to wear myself out enough to get a better night's sleep, I joined another group on their way into Trastevere proper for gelato. Heretofore I had only seen the suburban, residential side of Rome and, thanks in part to my jet lag impairment, had forgotten that these sorts of things exist in Rome. In spades:
Oh right, Rome doesn't for the most part resemble the seedy back neighborhoods of Athens. (Also worth mentioning that the day before I went for an afternoon walk with another Bostonian and ended up taking a wrong turn into the wrong neighborhood, which I have no plans of revisiting, uh, ever.)
After a miserable night of trying to fall asleep that didn't end until 4 AM the next day, Monday morning brought at long last the start of the program, and much more importantly, HOME COOKED FOOD! Our first breakfast consisted of the best mass-produced scrambled eggs I've ever had, fresh fruit, Centro rolls (soon to be a staple—we've had these at every meal since), and copious amounts of caffeine in various forms. Following breakfast, we all gathered for the first time to meet our professors and Franco, the Centro director. We split up into groups to go on a neighborhood walk—that is, the non-seedy neighborhood on your left instead of your right—and returned for lunch, spaghetti and delicious roasted vegetables. In the afternoon, we took our first group trip out to the gorgeous Basilica di San Clemente for our first site visit. This trip entailed piling all 40 of us onto the 74 bus, much to the dismay of the other passengers, and passing by the Colosseum without stopping to pay it any attention (I'm told it'll still be there in a few weeks when we go back to see it in actual detail).
San Clemente was, unfortunately, a no-photo zone, so please excuse this brief trip into the vortex of Google Images (click to enlarge):
Upon our return, we were treated to a four-course feast, the first of hopefully many to be had here in Italy.
Today we were sent off into the city in groups of three to a) find and research an obelisk in the city of Rome, and b) learn how to get lost. My group, with our superior city-navigating, map-reading, and direction-asking skills failed the second half of the assignment, but we were lucky enough to get to go to the Vatican for our obelisk in question, a gigantic monument at the center of the piazza. After a metro trip further downtown to see a second obelisk, we returned home and spent a leisurely two hours in the park eating lunch and basking in the finally-rainless weather before heading back to the Centro for two hours of research for a presentation on our site visit.
I leave you today with a photo of the Centro (this is kind of a boring angle and doesn't totally do it justice, but I think it would help to have a visual regardless). As I mentioned, the rain stopped at last, so with camera in hand I went on a photo spree in the park. With any luck, you'll see the results this weekend.