Dear Alison… {A Look Back at 2016}

Dear 2016 Alison,

It’s been one heck of a year. A lot of people are hating on 2016, but bad things happen every year. There has also been a lot of good that 2016 brought to the world, such as the canonization of Mother Teresa, the summer Olympics, and a whole lot of other things that you didn’t even realize happened until you Googled it just now.

But look at what God has blessed YOU with in 2016…

January

You tried the highly acclaimed BodyPump for the first time, and it was fine. You also bonded with fellow bloggers and good friends in NYC — with Colby over Lloyd’s incredible carrot cake and with Christine over Asian food (lol). I forgot that you contemplated Whole 30 for a while! But you know dairy and grains aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. On the college front, you learned a little more about how to deal with stress, and you started your little “Five Minute Friday” series! *squishes your cheeks*

February

HAHA remember when your exercise physiology professor pointed her laser at you in front of the whole class!? Of course you do. Your second sophomore semester would not have been complete without an embarrassing story. Bucket listing with Rachel is going strong. You learned in nutrition class that you need more carbs and less protein (about 3x less protein). You gave up makeup (among other things) for Lent, which was hard, but thank God for your friends pushing you to be better. Retreat was this month!! Don’t forget that it is improbable that you are where you are now. Also, you have some dang good looking friends #winemoms.

March

Looking good in that VO2Max test in exercise physiology… But eyyyy, SPRING BREAK! A couple fun road trips with Joe and Louis, good food at home, and a heck of a lot of sriracha. You also snuck into a bar, you rebel! *low key fist bump* But you ordered a Shirley Temple anyway, haha. Sarah, founder of Fit University, invited you to take one of her first Cyc classes, and she kicked your butt. Lastly, Easter was the perfect ending to a pretty spectacular month ♥︎

April

I’m proud of you for finally pulling off a decent April Fools’ joke. Annual swing dancing is always fun, and you should keep it up. This month included the first annual St. Sebastian Cup with the Catholic Center, and it was a BLAST, although you did get beat up pretty badly. Make sure you win in 2017. You convinced some friends to work out with you, which was so fun! Do more of that. Never stop supporting Jordan in her fashion shows. And always make pancakes with Rachel for Marathon Monday like you did this year.

May

Sophomore year — check! And Ben graduated college, go him! You and the fam took a celebratory trip to Stowe, VT, which is a pretty rad place. Hiking, Ben & Jerry’s, special peanut butter, what more could you want? You also stayed at BU for commencement weekend, where you saw a lot of your close friends graduate *tear*. OMG I think my heart breaks/melts/explodes all at the same time when I think about your time with Fiona and Rachel at Fiona’s summer house. 48 hours unplugged never felt so amazing. You started your summer job (that you almost ruined) at a rehabilitation hospital. You also turned TWO DECADES old! Lastly, we can never forget the beautiful Katie Anne, who passed away this month. She was a light and a joy to us all.

June

Poop therapy“, huh? You mean pool therapy, silly. In addition to enjoying work, you realized a few important lessons: you need to simplify your lifeyou cannot let the mirror steal your joyinternet addictions are real, and fitness is more than just skills and numbers. You also learned that the stress of starting something new can cause tummy troubles (you’re not lactose intolerant, hallelujah! but Lactaid was a tasty discovery). Lots of emotions were churning this month with the nation’s tragedies. You got a “Dora the Explorer” haircut according to some people (-_-) You always get mixed reviews on your short haircuts. Go be a tourist in your own backyard more often with some friends!! Really, just go back to get a Levain Bakery cookie again.

July

You started taking initiative with learning more current events. What happened?? Get back on that train! Then came the best vacation ever — a Caribbean cruise with the family and your family friends for your parents’ 25th anniversary! So much food. Monkeys on your head. So many beautiful places. AND YOU MET US THE DUO AND BASICALLY BECAME FRIENDS WITH THEM!!! Another great part of the vacation? Not feeling the need to compensate afterward. You shared everything about your current fitness situation. I’m glad you are, above all, having fun with fitness. I’m also glad that you don’t get as stressed if you’re not hungry before a big planned meal.

August

Can you make this artichoke chicken pasta dish again?? I forgot you made that. Also, make that Brazilian cheese bread soon. Working at the rehab hospital definitely helped you become more of a grown up, I’d say. This year’s Olympics were pretty stellar (especially on the US women’s gymnastics front!). You had zero emotions regarding leaving for study abroad in Ireland… If only you knew what was in store. Your grandparents celebrated their 50th Golden Anniversary!! How inspiring. And you celebrated three short years of blogging. It’s been a great adventure though. You also got your first stethoscope from the physical therapists at work, oooooo!

September

You flew to Ireland to study there for 3.5 months! But first your family + family friends did some serious foodie work in NYC. Wowza. In Ireland, you faced some comparison trap struggles, but you powered through. Ugh, I miss the scones, greenery, and mayyyybe even the ability to drink alcohol in Ireland. Also all those desserts. You had your first Aibnb experience in Galway (still the best Airbnb ever)! Howth and the Cliffs of Moher were two of the most beautiful sights you’d ever seen. You finally learned that education should be about a desire to learn, not a desire to “just do well.” You were also challenged in your beliefs, which was scary but actually very fortifying for your faith at the end of the day.

October

“Booze and Grooves” (coined by your friend Ben) commenced during your class field trip to Northern Ireland. You really started settling into your routine in Ireland at this point. I know that saying “yes” isn’t always easy for you, but you really learned how to do that more while abroad. You even went out on a whim and planned a last minute wine and cheese night for everyone in the program! Then came the European trip of a lifetime, which started with Zurich, Switzerland (so expensive). Then to Padua (where you got to practice your Italian right away), Assisi (BEST PLACE ON EARTH), and finally, Rome (thank God for priest and seminarian friends/family and Pope Francis!). I’m proud of you and Megan for traveling on your own through foreign countries. ALSO proud of you for starting Harry Potter together!!!

November

Brunch game in Dublin was so strong. You did some more exploring in the gorgeous country of Ireland. This was also your first Thanksgiving away from home, but Friendsgiving with the people in your program was so heartwarming (and yummy). You also started your internship at a physiotherapy clinic in Dublin this month! You learned all about dry needling, myofascial trigger points, and massage therapy. And now you give great massages 🙂

December

Congrats! You know how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. More importantly, you know that 100% recovery is possible. Now that you’re a Harry Potter fan, Scotland was one of the most magical places you’ve ever visited. And just like that — your semester in Ireland flew by in the blink of an eye. You grew and learned more than you could have ever imagined in those 3.5 months. Coming home was so sweet though. And now you’re finishing up a food-tastic vacation with the fam in Florida!

Keep working on being a good listener to other people.

Keep an open mind.

Keep pursuing a deep relationship with God.

Here’s to a new year,

2017 Alison

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The Great and Small Things I Learned This Semester {Study Abroad}

It’s hard to put into words how I feel about my experiences in Ireland, but I will do what I’ve done every semester before this — write up a list of…

the great and small

[freshman 1 ~ freshman 2 ~ sophomore 1 ~ sophomore 2]

…study abroad edition 🙂

  1. Ireland is underrated for its beauty.img_3103
  2. The grass really is greener in Ireland and there really are sheep everywhere.img_5538
  3. Aer Lingus has delicious food.img_2858
  4. How to use the Dublin Bus, aka one of the least user-friendly public transportation systems in the world.
  5. A little bit more about booze and how to drink it. I despise Rosé and red wine; I can tolerate light beers, hard liquors, and white wine; I can only tolerate Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse; I like “baby Guinness” shots; I am not willing to pay for the amount of alcohol it takes to make me even tipsy. (#BoozeAndGrooves)
  6. “Slagging” is when Irish people tease you and give you a hard time, but it’s supposedly a way to break the ice when you first meet someone.
  7. How to share a kitchen with over ten people.
  8. No matter how many times you might politely ask people to wash their own dishes, there will always be those who just. don’t. get it.
  9. How to take charge with travel plans, directions, and public transportation.img_4695
  10. How to not panic when I get lost in a foreign country
  11. It is indeed cloudy and rainy most of the time in Ireland (although we had mild weather this year!).img_5556
  12. Tea breaks are a real thing in the Irish workplace.
  13. I love the said tea, scone, and biscuit culture.14462810_1188492134507275_7641167688898127242_n
  14. But Megan and I also make some great scones that we like even more than the ones at the bakery…img_5595
  15. What dry needling entails and what it feels like.
  16. How to give bomb massages.
  17. I LOVE HARRY POTTER. I am a Hufflepuff with Slytherin undertones.img_6308
  18. I don’t get that homesick, but FaceTiming friends every week also helps.
  19. What black pudding and haggis are and how they taste (not bad!).img_6196
  20. How Airbnb works.img_3493
  21. I can just make it through Italy with my minimal high school Italian language “skills”.
  22. Assisi is the best place on earth.
  23. Heck, all of Italy is the best place on earth.
  24. How to better identify when my funky mood is due to lack of sleep.
  25. I can get fitter in four months without a gym.img_4291
  26. People feel most loved when you listen to them. Truly listen. This is something that I need to work on.
  27. What retrocalcaneal bursitis is and how it forces you to just RELAX and stop walking so much.img_5634
  28. 100% recovery is possible.
  29. Dublin is a fantastic brunch city.
  30. Megan loves brunch, loves dessert, and questions the purpose of coffee and alcohol as much as I do. And she’s an awesome travel buddy 🙂img_4765
  31. Irish dairy and beef are superb.
  32. Potatoes really are served with everything in Ireland.img_4214
  33. How to ask more questions.
  34. Irish sociology, culture, healthcare ethics, and insurance.
  35. How to play Gaelic sports (and that I royally suck at 2/3 of them).
  36. Names like Colm, Caolon, and Niamh exist, and they are not phonetical whatsoever.
  37. I don’t get sick of overnight oats.img_5698
  38. I don’t know how to do bars and pubs.
  39. Brown bread/soda bread is one of those “this-is-like-cardboard-but-somehow-delicious” foods. It’s all in the generous spread of butter.img_5533
  40. How to challenge my faith and to not be afraid of doubt.
  41. How to live with, get along with, and love a vastly diverse group of peers.
  42. How to have good craic (pronounced “crack”; means “fun”).
  43. I can’t believe I ever disliked the idea of studying abroad.
  44. How to fall in love with God (whomp whomp, so Christian-girl-mushy, sue me).
  45. God will truly lead you to where He wills you to go. Just ask Him.img_4935

I want to thank my parents, brother, friends/family at home and abroad, and all the staff and faculty at Boston University and Dublin City University who made my study abroad one of the best experiences ever. It is you who make my experiences full.

So tell me:

If you are college student, three things you learned this semester!

If you are not in college, three things you learned this fall! 

Itty Bitty Pope Francis

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but a little bit of pizza, pasta and Pope Francis never hurts (unless you’re gluten intolerant).

Where did I leave off in part one of Rome adventures? Saturday!

I woke up early-ish again to meet another one of my seminarian friends (stop rolling your eyes), Kevin. We broke the fast with cornetti again as we caught up on a bunch of stuff. I hadn’t seen Kevin since I was in high school in New York!

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I could get used to meeting people at St. Peter’s square in the morning

What I can’t get used to is finding people in St. Peter’s square mid-morning. I didn’t agree on a specific spot in St. Peter’s to meet up with Megan and Ceara after I had breakfast with Kevin, so it was like real life “Where’s Waldo”.

Eventually, Megan and I ran into each other amidst the sea of people, and we were reunited. Ceara’s friend, Sonja, joined us for the day too! We bravely decided to tackle the long line for the Musei Vaticani. The bravery is mostly for facing all the people who harass you to buy tickets to skip the long line into the museum.

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The wait wasn’t horrible though! Maybe an hour tops? That being said, the museum was absolutely packed. I feel like the whole museum is really just one giant line to get into the Sistine Chapel.

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The art is magnificent, don’t get me wrong! I’m happy that we got to see all the great artists’ works through the centuries and millennia.

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But let’s just say… I’m glad we got student discounts on our tickets. It’s a lot of stimulation with all the people and intricate artwork, and if you’re claustrophobic, skip this museum.

After a good few hours at Musei Vaticani, we were ready for lunch. Specifically, pizza. Ceara led us to a great place called L’isola di Pizza (The Island of Pizza), which sounds cheesy (no pun intended), but their pizza crust was the BEST.

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I went with the classic combo of cheese, tomato, and basil (it was different from the margherita though?), and although I wish it had more basil, I totally demolished this. That thin, crispy crust was everything.

Then it was time to walk walk walk in the beautiful weather yet again!

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With a stop for gelato, necessarily. Frigidarium take two. This time I got the famous Frigidarium flavor (a rich caramel flavor with some chocolate swirls, chocolate biscuit pieces, and that big chocolate biscuit on top!) + saffron pistachio!!!

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This was my favorite cup of gelato of the entire trip.

We took the bus to The Basilica of St. John Lateran and La Santa Scala (the Holy Stairs on which Jesus was condemned that were somehow removed from Jerusalem and brought to Rome by command of Constantine’s wife??), where we spent some time looking around and climbing the stairs on our knees while praying in remembrance of His condemnation.

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Basilica of St. John Lateran

It’s weird that I “got used to” this kind of view whenever I entered any church in Rome.

We took our time walking back up towards dinner, stopping by the Colosseum again to chat and watch the sun set.

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It was fun chatting with the girls about faith agreements/disagreements and cartoon crushes as we strolled through ROME. Agh, that will never not be cool to me.

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Eventually, we made it to a place that Denis recommended for dinner called La Vittoria. I wasn’t crazy hungry, but I still wanted pasta. This might have been my favorite pasta that I ate in Rome (but second best pasta in all of Italy after the gnocchi in Assisi)— spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce, bacon, and hazelnuts. I think I had a salad before this, but that’s not as exciting as pasta.

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It doesn’t look that great from the photo, but I promise it was. The bacon added a lovely smokey flavor that made my heart sing (probably cry too, but…). We stayed at the restaurant until it started closing up, which was the longest we had stayed at a restaurant during our whole trip. #TheEuropeanWay

The next day, Ceara, Megan and I had a light-ish breakfast of two last cornetti per person. We basically had to, because our Airbnb host gave us vouchers for free breakfast at a nearby cafe every morning. If they insist, ya know?

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this one was filled with custard, not gonna keep any secrets here

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and this one had a touch of apricot jam on it 🙂

After a little time to digest, we walked over to a church just outside Vatican City for Sunday Mass.

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Not only was the Mass in English, but the priest who celebrated, Fr. Gino, was from New Jersey (go northeast and tristate area)! He actually came up to us right before Mass started and asked us where we were from. He then proceeded to start the Mass and gave Boston University a shoutout in front of the whole congregation! It was no papal audience, but we were still super honored and excited.

Sonja met up with us after Mass, and we all squeezed our way into St. Peter’s square to see a special someone…

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CAN YOU SEE HIM!?

It’s your boy, Papa Francesco giving a sermon on the readings of the day and praying with all the people gathered in St. Peter’s square, which he does every Sunday at 12:00 pm when he’s in town. We were so happy to see him!!

I knew he’d look small being so far away, but I didn’t think he would be that small. His voice was amplified though, so we got to hear his tender, grandfatherly voice. I just wanna give him a hug.

Afterwards, we slowly waddled our way through the crowds to get to lunch at Da Vito e Dina. Megan split a supplì (fried rice ball with cheese inside) with me because I had been hoping to have arancini at some point during our Italy travels, so the supplì was the closest match on our last day. Good choice.

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For my last pasta dish in Italy (*tear*), I had the seafood gnocchi, which was very salty but very delicious.

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For our last gelato run, we chose Old Bridge, which is what one of my other seminarian friends recommended back from the States. The quality of the gelato was just as good as Frigidarium, but I think I liked the flavor selection at Old Bridge better. HOWEVER, I still liked my second Frigidarium experience best of all.

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At the end of the day though, it’s gelato in Rome, so I couldn’t lose. I got the biscotti, arachidi (peanut), and coconut biscuit flavors. All so good! And again— €2 for three flavors. I weep coming back to Ireland/the US.img_5254

After our last meal in Rome, we walked towards a park for some last views of the grand city.

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Sonja and I also got our yoga on!

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St. Peter’s one last time. ♥︎

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Then it was time to get our bags from the Airbnb and head to the airport. It was a little stressful finding the bus from the train station to the airport, but we eventually found out what to do after some flailing and confusion.

My airport dinner was a decent vegetable sandwich.

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Our flight was filled with rowdy Irish tweens, but I made my first Irish friend! He’s super tall, well-read, and 17 or 18 years old. Haha.

Since then, we’ve been back in Dublin doing our internships and continuing some class work. I’m SO BEHIND in catching you up, but I have officially finished reviewing the most epic trip of my life.

Praise God.

Not Your Average Tour of Rome

I didn’t mean to leave you hangin’ for so long!

There were a lot of things to catch up on coming back from our mid-semester break last week, so blogging fell to the bottom of my to-do list every day. But I can’t leave Rome out of the story! (see here for Zurich, Padua, and Assisi)

We arrived on Thursday night, and this was my unnecessarily expensive (though admittedly tasty and satisfying) train station dinner

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On Friday morning, we were awaken in our Airbnb by our alarm clocks…and Top 40 playing on the radio. Our flatmates for the weekend were up at 5:45 am with us and already blasting music. Is that normal in Italy? Please inform me.

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quite an extravagant light fixture in our Airbnb

After munching on some breakfast biscuits and getting dressed, Megan, Ceara and I walked approximately 20 minutes to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City before the sun even peeped over the horizon.

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We were meeting my uncle, who also happens to be a priest in Rome, for Mass in the papal crypts of St. Peter’s Basilica. !!!!!! He kindly invited my friends and I since I told him that I’d be in Rome, and guys…It was an incredible experience. First of all, it was like Catholic Hogwarts with all the priests in their vestments saying Mass at all the different altars, with the little altar boys following with the chalices.

Secondly, the basilica is the most spectacular building I’ve ever seen.

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The original “Pietà” by Michelangelo!

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We descended into the papal crypts for Mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel at 7:15am.

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At the beginning of Mass, my uncle said, “St. Peter’s tomb is right next to us on the other side of this wall.”

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I’M SORRY, WHO!? PETER, THE ROCK OF THE CHURCH?

Unreal.

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I’m so awkward, help.

After Mass, Fruncle Alex took us to the hip cafe where all the priests and seminarians hang out for coffee and wifi, so naturally we saw seven men with Roman collars inside upon entering. Fruncle Alex and his friend, Brother Luis, treated us to scrumptious cornetti (a variety of croissants) for breakfast.

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I learned quickly to love the cornetti-for-breakfast lifestyle of Italy ♥︎

We are so blessed and seriously lucky to have had such a cool opportunity before 8am. Thank you so dearly, Fruncle (Fr. + Uncle) Alex!

After saying goodbye to him and Brother Luis, Megan, Ceara and I took the Metro into the heart of Rome. First stop was the iconic Trevi Fountain!

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All I can think of is Lizzie McGuire, to be honest. ALSO, Madre made this cute collage of me at the Trevi in 2003 vs. now. I guess this means the legend of the fountain works! I’ll have to go back to Rome again then…bummer 😉

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I had a better sense of fashion back then.

After we did our touristy thing there, we met up with my friend Denis from Boston University, who is a seminarian studying in Rome! If you think that 25% of my friends are males who are priests/studying to be priests, you’re not entirely wrong.

Denis was also extremely kind in taking us three helpless American lassies on a full day’s tour of Rome, which undoubtedly saved us a lot of headache, hours of getting lost, and tourist traps. More so, it was such a treat to catch up with Denis and hang out with him!

We met him at his college a little past 11 and then walked toward the Spanish Steps, stopping by a cafe for some paninis for lunch.

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I got this uber cheesy sundried tomato and arugula panini. Our plan was to eat on the Spanish Steps, but two bites into my panini, a lady kicked us off the steps saying, “No food on the steps. OUT.”

*Walk of shame*

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That didn’t put a damper on our lunch al fresco in the beautiful city of Rome on such a fine day though.

Then we meandered our way through the city, popping into some basilicas occasionally. Denis was such a wealth of information about all things Rome, which made the day 10x more interesting than we could have ever expected.

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only in Rome will you find a priest goods store

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Denis took us to his favorite gelato place, Frigidarium, and I realized the hype. Not only is it high quality gelato, but it is DIRT CHEAP. €2 for a decently-sized small cup with two flavors. We went there on Friday AND Saturday.

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For round one, I got a black cherry flavor + pistachio. The pistachio was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

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We kept walking and passed through some of the big landmarks like the Pantheon…

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…St. Peter’s again (but with more time for all of Denis’ fun facts about it!)…

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Swiss guards (who legit have to be Swiss) guarding the area where the Pope resides

…St. Angelo’s Castle…

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…the Roman Forum…

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…and this thing.

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Classic Colosseum pics.

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Plus, like, five more churches, which were all awesome.

While all the historical, quintessentially Roman landmarks were super cool, one of the highlights was actually Denis’ seminary, which he showed us at the end. The building itself was beautiful, and not gonna lie, their movie room was pretty sick. Their courtyard even has orange trees!

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The BEST part was going all the way to the top of the seminary for the most stunning view of all of Rome.

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Check. this. out.

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We were blessed all weekend with warm weather and blue skies. I cry.

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I mean, can we get sisters a convent as amazing as this??

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And so the sun set on the most perfect day in Rome.

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But that just means it’s time for food. Denis chose his favorite restaurant called Ristorante Abruzzi, which did not disappoint. He told us he wanted us to experience a “real Italian dinner”, so we went all out with a bottle of red, antipasti, primi piatti, dessert, and digestivi (after dinner drinks). I even [kind of] liked the red wine, despite saying I hate it a couple weeks ago.

For my antipasto, I got the salad with a bunch of yummy stuff on it (read: artichokes).

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For my main, I ordered the tonnarelli di cacio e pepe, which is basically thicker spaghetti in a cheese and pepper sauce. I had wanted to try a cacio e pepe pasta dish somewhere for as long as I could remember, so that night was the night.

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Mmmm. Honestly, I liked everyone else’s pasta dishes more than mine, but the cacio e pepe was still great.

I went with a new and interesting dessert to me called “Montebianco”, which our waiter explained was a vanilla cake with hazelnut paste. I would now describe it as a cream pie/cake with icing and hazelnut paste on it. It was weird but tasty!

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Speaking of our waiter, his name was Carlo, and he was hilarious. He kept teasing Megan and Ceara in a grandfatherly way. He also made our after dinner drinks on the house! I had never had digestivi, as they’re called, but I tried the green sambuca and limoncello that night.

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no, we didn’t drink all of this

The limoncello was kinda nice, but I took too big a swig of the sambuca, which made my face feel like it was burning. It also tasted pretty gross. Never again.

Ahhhhh. This dinner was the perfect end to an exceptional day. Not your average tour of Rome, I’d say. I want to thank Denis from the bottom of my heart for taking a day out of his busy life to tour us around the city and share his knowledge with us. We had such a blast!

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hence all the pasta and dessert

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

Part two of Rome still to come! (I know, I know, there’s so much, but…THERE’S SO MUCH.)

Assisi, You Have My Heart

I was woken up by church bells and roosters crowing in Assisi, and I had never been so happy to be woken up an hour early.

We arrived to Assisi at around 8:30 pm on Tuesday night. Megan and I had planned on taking the bus and walking to the hospitality house where we were staying, but we decided to split a taxi with two American men who were on our train. It was a smart decision, because Assisi’s streets are quite the maze. Plus it was dark and we were not in the mood to get lost after a long day of traveling.

We stayed at La Casa d’Ospitalità Maria Immacolata, which was the perfect place. Central location, super kind religious sisters, and beautiful rooms.

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We tried to find a bite to eat, and the best we could do at 9pm in our tired state was a €5 salad. I had this plus half of Megan’s, since she wasn’t feelin’ hers anymore.

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Our room had a balcony with a panorama of Assisi, which looked like this in the morning:

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GLORY.

I ate some breakfast biscuits and mixed nuts before we explored Assisi. Just like Padua, it involved a lot of church visits, wandering semi-aimlessly, and waiting for restaurants to open. 

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We loved it so much though. Assisi is a movie set. None of it seems real, but the best part is that it IS REAL. The buildings are rustic, and the signs look like Disney World tried to make a European Epcot exhibition. 

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Obviously, we had to visit the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Pictures weren’t allowed (there were two Italian guards with big guns outside, so I wasn’t gonna try to pull a fast one), but again, it was exquisite. St. Francis’ tomb was in the basement!! (Getting excited over dead people, I know.)

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We spent a good chunk of time there before going to a random (yet impressively high-tech) museum of a Franciscan mission to the Amazon, followed by the Basilica of St. Rufino. 

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Poor Megan was getting hangry, but we had 20 minutes to spare before lunch opened, so I tried to walk us to Rocca Maggiore (the fortress at the very top of Assisi) for a nice view. Too bad Assisi is really hilly and steep — great if you have energy to exercise, horrible if you’re hangry.

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The views were worth it (IMO. But I ate more than she did for breakfast too, so..). 

Working up an appetite for lunch at Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba was also worth it. My friend Joe recommended it to me, and the menu looked fantastic, so we went for it.

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Al fresco!

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They gave us a bread basket PLUS this onion focaccia, which was divine.

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Megan and I shared the beef tartare to start. We called them “raw meatballs”, but they were seriously amazing. There were black truffle shavings and some sort of yogurt sauce. 

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Then we both ordered the gnocchi for our main. It came with a lamb ragu sauce, pecorino cream, and CHOCOLATE! The chocolate definitely elevated the dish to a new and unique level. 

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Dead. This was definitely the best meal of my entire trip.

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We popped into a gelateria for lunch dessert, because…we were in Italy. 

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Each cup came with three flavors, so I went with caramel, mint chocolate chip, and pistachio. Weird combo, but I enjoyed it a lot. 

I was so full of good Italian food at that point, so we slowly made our way to the Basilica of St. Clare, where her tomb was located as well. Her body is partially incorrupt, which means it is decaying more slowly than usual and no one can explain it scientifically. Creepy crazy cool.

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We headed back to our room to change into something other than jeans, since it was actually pretty warm that day. I also needed to lay down on a bed and digest from lunch still.

Then it was time for a hike! We walked about 1.5 hours to St. Francis’ old hermitage, called Eremo delle Carceri, which I think means hermitage of the prisons? It was a great walk, but it was also a great workout. It was all uphill, so my hamstrings and butt were feeling it as I huffed and puffed up the double backs of the mountain.

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We were the only valiant walkers as many cars passed us by. #fituniversity?

Once we arrived, we walked around the beautiful and serene hermitage. We checked out the grottos and prayer spaces of St. Francis and his companions.

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We spent a good couple of hours here, marveling in the beauty and meditating ourselves. It was another good workout going down this trail…and then back up.

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STORY TIME.

We stayed so long at the hermitage because we wanted to go to adoration and vespers (both are special forms of prayer) at the chapel at 6pm. We knew it would get dark, but we figured we could get a cab or just walk with our phone flashlights back down the mountain, no big deal.

Adoration and vespers were lovely. I was exhausted, but it was so cool to be praying with priests and religious brothers and sisters at the top of a mountain in Assisi, where St. Francis once prayed.

Once the prayers were over though, we realized that it was pitch black outside and thunder storming… Not really great conditions for walking 1.5 hours down a mountain, eh? At first, I assured the priest that we would be able to get a taxi by the entrance of the hermitage, but when we got outside, there was not a soul in sight, and we knew there would be no taxis passing by until the morning. So we scurried back to the hermitage to ask the priest, Fr. Marco and the religious sister, Sr. Violet, there to call a cab for us.

God is good. Another religious sister, Sr. Elisabetta, and her friend were heading back down the mountain with their car, so the priest asked them if they would be willing to give us a lift, and they agreed! It all sounds very nice and perfect as I type this, but in reality, Megan and I were so frazzled and helpless.

“Guess we’re staying at the hermitage tonight.” -Megan

We are beyond grateful for such kind people though. We got to talk to Fr. Marco and Sr. Violet while we waited for our ride to be ready. All of a sudden though, the room started shaking.

Megan and I were just looking around like, “Hm, the room is moving. Must be some strong thunder or something.” But Sister Violet took my arm and calmly but firmly led me out of the room we were standing in to stand under a small archway.

We must have looked confused at that point, because all she said was, “Earthquake. Terremoto.” WHAT!? Megan and I are clueless. Thankfully, it was not a big or long earthquake.

Anyway, Sr. Elisabetta and her friend very kindly drove us back to town, where it started raining torrentially.

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If we tried to walk back down a mountain in the dark with thunderstorms, pouring rain, and earthquakes, I think we would have died. We are forever grateful for the compassionate and joyful people of Eremo delle Cercari.

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We ran into the closest open restaurant once we got out of the car. It was a random hotel restaurant, but we were hungry and it was pouring outside. I ordered the veal steak and side of grilled vegetables.

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I got the biggest stomachache after this, probably because I ate too fast and the meal was just very oily overall. Too many fats in a very short period of time after a long hike and a little stress was not a good combo.

By the time we finished dinner, it had stopped raining (thank God), so we walked back to our rooms to just be done with the day. But it wasn’t quite over.

I had just showered and Megan was sitting on the ground using her phone. The room started shaking again, and we looked at each other. We didn’t say anything but we weren’t taking this earthquake seriously, since the other one was so short and mild. But then the shaking kept going, and it was getting harder. Our eyes widened and we realized, “Oh, earthquakes are natural disasters and we should be concerned. !!!!”

All I learned in school was to go under a doorframe, so that’s what we did. We were totally fine, but the epicenter must have felt it big time. 😦

We felt one more shake while in our beds a little later, but nothing woke us up while we were actually sleeping.

The next morning, the sun was out and the view from our balcony got even prettier.

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I could cry.

We checked out of our hospitality house and moseyed our way down to St. Damian, which was a church rebuilt by St. Francis and used by the Poor Clares.

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Look at how touristy we are. Backpack/frontpack for me + hiking boots hanging off of Megan’s hiking backpack.

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Besides Megan mildly twisting her ankle, the walk to lunch was lovely, and these views from the bottom of Assisi were stunning. I could not take my eyes off this place.

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We ate lunch at Casa Norcia, which gave us some delicious pasta (naturally). I had the mixed salad + tagliatelle with prosciutto and hazelnuts. YUM.

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There were about 45 minutes to kill before the Mary of the Angels Basilica reopened for the day, so I blogged on my phone for a bit outside. The wifi was THE BEST in that area.

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Then it was time to catch our train to Rome. We both finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that evening, and we are officially HP fans now. It happened.

So we shed a tear because we left Assisi and because we finished the first HP book. Assisi is my new favorite place in the world, and my heart longs to return.

A few more adventures to share coming up!