Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Break, or "I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong."

After starting off 10 Day/spring break with our extravagant gaunt in Tuscany we decided to spend the rest of the week being a bit more low key.  We hung around the apartment, went shopping in Rome, got to see Pat and Madeleine McEwen, and studied for our Italian driving test.

The Italian driving test has been the bane of our existence for a while now.  Ryan and I initially took the written test, known as the "theoretical test," at the end of last semester.  The whole thing was all very elaborate.  One of UD's bus drivers has a friend with a driving school an hour away.  We were told our chances of passing would be good (wink,wink) if we went with them.  So we studied our tials off, drove an hour to the random town of Frosinone, and failed.  Ryan and I both failed by only one question which is insanely frustrating.  It is also frustrating that the WatermanWards passed after much lamenting bc they had not studied, grrrrr.  Bernadette apologized to me afterward.  She said she had not prayed for me bc she was too busy praying that Dane would pass, which he did.  She then informed me that I failed bc I do not know Italian, even though the test was in English.  It was not quite what I needed to hear at that moment.

Our make-up test was rescheduled for Monday morning, yesterday, and just to make it that much more fun the laws have changed and the Italian government no longer offers the test in English.  So not only did we have to spend our break studying driving laws that NO ONE FOLLOWS but we had to learn them all in Italian.  Once again we studied our tails off, drove an hour to Frosinone, and...failed...again.  And this time Bernadette was right, I failed bc I do not know Italian.  It was thoroughly depressing.  Hopefully third time's the charm.

Oh, and the students came back.

The only saving grace of the past few days has been the fantastic spring weather along with the sangria and peanut butter rice krispie treats we made to drown our sorrows:)

Monday, March 21, 2011

A weekend in Tuscany

The Italy I have experienced as an "adult" is so different from the Italy I experienced as a student.  Having an income and a car really make a huge difference.  The freedom they provide is quite enjoyable.  We can go to amazing out of the way places that would have taken us multiple hours and at least twenty transfers by bus/train to get to as a student, and we can actually sit down in a restaurant eat a real Italian meal (which lasts on average two and a half hours; it is simply the best!)  This is exactly what we did this weekend.  It was Msgr. Fucinaro's birthday on Saturday and we celebrated with a weekend trip to Tuscany.  (We being Msgr., Mary Dougherty, Ryan and I.)

We stayed at a B&B in a small town called Bibbona in the western part of Tuscany close to the ocean.  It was 'fantastic' as Msgr. would say.  Ryan and I got the matrimonial room with a fireplace, sitting room, and private garden.  The idea had been to go around and do wine tastings at the surrounding vineyards but they were all closed so we took a day trip up to Siena instead.  The drive through Tuscany was a highlight as spring is just starting to hit Italy.  Everything was beginning to bloom and there was the fantastic smell  in the air that only spring can bring.  The song birds were out in full force and the lambs were frolicking in the fields (they were delicious, but more on that later.)  In Siena we had a private mass at San Domenico, where St. Catherine's head is, and then it was off to eat and drink ourselves sick.  If someone were to ask, I would say the theme of the trip was 'eat until you want to puke.'  It was thoroughly gluttonous/glorious.

For me the food has been my favorite way to experience Italy.  You get a very real sense of the culture and the people through their cuisine.  Nothing can top a full Italian meal enjoyed over several hours with good wine and good company.  The Italians are very proud of their products and each region has a special food and/or wine that they are known for.  In Tuscany Sangiovese is king.  This is a fantastic little grape that makes some great BIG wines.  My favorites are the Brunellos and the Super Tuscans (-->Tignanello is to die for!)  Tuscany is also known for its lamb, Chianina beef, wild boar, and truffles.  You cannot go wrong with a menu like that.  So, to celebrate Msgr.'s birthday in true Tuscan style, we went to a very fancy little place called Arnolfo that features contemporary Tuscan cuisine made with all organic local ingredients (we really are yuppies aren't we?)  The meal began with champagne and a pre-appetizer and by the time we reached the pre-dessert course we were all in a collective food coma.  We polished off eleven courses, the highlight being the tris of lamb, and left around 1am.  Mary and I were literally food drunk afterward and fluctuated between bouts of extreme giddiness and extreme physical discomfort.

On our way back to Rome on Sunday, after one of the wackiest mass experiences ever, we stopped for lunch in the town of Porto Santo Stefano.  I could not believe this place, it was like a mini Capri and it is only an hour drive from UD's campus.  Who knew?!  Porto Santo Stefano is on an island off the western coast, there is a causeway which you drive over to get there, kind of like driving to the Outer Banks in NC.  It is apparently a very exclusive vacation spot for Italians.  My pictures don't do it justice so I pulled some off the internet.  The views and the sea food were out of this world.  We will definitely be going back.

After this weekend I am not quite sure how I can eat anything ever again.  Please be assured that we do NOT do this often.  It was all Msgr.'s idea and I put the blame for this extravagance squarely on him.  My next post will be on the joys of caring for 105 nineteen year olds, then you will see how I really live.

(Pictures from this weekend will be posted soon.  Ryan and I forgot our camera, so all the pictures are on Msgr.'s camera.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here goes nothing...

I am terrible at keeping in touch with people. 

I am sure this revelation comes as no surprise to my family and friends.  Since moving to Rome in August I have basically been incommunicato.  I am hoping this blog will change that.  Being able to live and work in Rome is a once in a life time experience that is amazing, exciting, exhilarating, and challenging.  I felt the need to start recording all of our adventures (big and small) and decided that instead of journaling I would blog so that I could share with all of you back home.  I really do care about you all, friends and family alike, and miss you more than you know.  So here goes nothing...this blog is for all of you.

- Ellen