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One Year in Italy: 12 Months of Memories

Time Flies!

“Time Flies! Stop lying around and write something, will ya?” (Photo of a detail from the facade of Santa Maria dell’ Orazione e delle Morte on the Via Giulia, Rome)

Living in a new place, especially for an extended period of time, fills me with a sense of duty that I have to write everything down, commit every moment to memory, take a photo every day if not every hour. But eventually, that initial motivation turns to dread and an overwhelming feeling that I should be more mindful of my surroundings rather than living behind a lens or a computer screen.

The latter reason is why I have not written as much as I should have over this past year in Italy. Plus, I’ve just done so much in these 12 months! I’ve traveled all over Rome and its region Lazio, from the beaches to the lakes to hill towns in between, and have visited six other regions (with a goal of getting to all 20 before my time here comes to and end). Over the past year, I have also taken more than 7,000 photos — so much for not living behind a lens!

Despite that photo stat, I have been paying attention with my other senses: smelling the roasting chestnuts in winter, the jasmine bushes in spring, and the cool, damp aroma of underground spaces; listening to the rumble of trams, the clinking of cups and saucers, the fleeting bits of Italian conversations overheard in the markets and shops; and tasting the foods of each season. Touch has been more elusive, as Italy is full of things you want to touch but cannot — smooth marbles and mosaics and frescoes, tufts of moss growing out of crevices high on a Roman wall.

Of course, readers visit this blog to see Italy as much as learn about it. So, I wanted to share 12 photos over this past year, one for each month, to mark my transition from year one to year two. These are simple photos — most taken with an iPhone 5 — but they are special reminders for me. Read below for details.

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Cool Italian Street Art from The Drawing Bike

  
Rachele del Nevo parks her bike every day on the corner of Piazza Della Rotonda within view of the Pantheon. It is here, right outside of Tazza D’Oro (one of the city’s best known coffee shops) that she sells her one-of-a-kind souvenir drawings of some of the city’s gorgeous landmarks.

When I chatted with her one morning, I thumbed through the artwork stuffed into the basket of her Drawing Bike. There were large illustrations of obelisks and small drawings of details from churches. So many of the drawings were of familiar Roman scenes but they all felt different because of her colorful, pop art style. Rachele’s medium? Marker on cardboard panels, most from the sides of boxes that once held everyday Italian products like laundry soap or pasta. 

I was particularly smitten with an illustration of Bernini’s obelisk-topped elephant, a sculpture that sits in a square less than a block from her station. But I would have been happy to take home any one of her panels, some of which integrate brands and logos into common Roman and Italian scenes. She also does made-to-order illustrations. But I doubt you could come up with better ideas than she has already created.

People always talk about Rome being a blend of old and new. But this is really a way to bring the Roman street home with you in a way that is fresh, lightweight—and possibly worth something some day.

Photo of the Day: A Ray of Light in San Giovanni in Laterano

While hundreds wait in lines in the harsh sun to get into Saint Peter’s, the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, also known as the Cathedral of Rome, is practically empty. San Giovanni is the oldest and largest papal basilica in Rome, although it has gone through many reconstructions over the years due to earthquakes, fires, and vandalism (by the actual Vandals, in the 5th century).

Admission to San Giovanni in Laterano is free. But you can purchase a ticket to visit the 13th century cloister, located through a door to the left of the altar, and the Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum (the Holy Stairs and Holy Sanctum, located across the street), one of the most important sites of pilgrimage outside of Vatican City.

The Pantheon On Pentecost Sunday

Pantheon at Pentecost: Rose Petals

Easter may have come and gone but the ceremonies and spectacles surrounding this holy time continue long after Easter Sunday mass at Saint Peter’s.

Fifty days after Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate Pentecost Sunday, a day when the Holy Spirit is said to come down to earth. Rome celebrates this day by raining rose petals down into the Pantheon through its oculus.

The ancient Pantheon, known since the 7th century as St. Mary and the Martyrs or Santa Maria Rotonda, hosts the event called Pioggia dele Rose (The Rain of Roses) or Pioggia di Petali (The Rain of Petals)  in the afternoon following Pentecost mass. The event is free.

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