It all started with a 4:10 a.m. wakeup call at the Days Inn across the street from the Newark Airport. It was almost reminiscent of waking up for a 5:30 a.m. spring workout, except I knew in a few hours I would be on a plane to Europe. Not a bad deal if you ask me. My first flight was to London’s Heathrow Airport where I had a 12-hour layover. First of all, let me tell you that Heathrow is a city. This place is in the middle of nowhere, and it is a monster of a building. It took me an 18-minute shuttle bus ride to get from wing B to wing C. Now that is what I call a huge place.
London was quite the adventure, considering that I left Philly at eight in the morning and got to London at eight at night, and my next flight wasn’t until eight again the next morning. London was great, and it was definitely an experience trying to pull an all-nighter in the airport. But the cool thing was that Manchester United was playing for the Champions League championship against Chelsea and won in an overtime thriller, 6-5, in a shootout. Talk about a crazy airport! Soccer, or “football” in Europe, is absolutely insane. I didn’t know whether to cheer or what because when we were watching the game (along with four pilots and a bunch of drunken Londoners), everyone was silent. I didn’t know what to do! Then finally when there was a shot, the whole place went nuts. It was definitely a cool way to start of my first night out of the country ever.
My opinion on what I saw of London: The most enormous building ever, but it is the most expensive city in the world right now (I think). The exchange rate was $2.32 for every dollar. That was not fun. Other than that, I didn’t actually get to see what the whole city was about, so I guess my feelings are neutral. Some advice; don’t spend any money, and you will be a happy person!
Finally when I got to board my flight, it took about two-and-a-half hours to get to Rome. I guess normally it is a two-hour flight, but France was on an air strike, so we had to fly around the whole country. I landed and was ready to get on my way in Italy! I am staying at the Residence Medaglie D’oro which is a five-minute walk from the Vatican and about a half-hour walk to the Temple campus.
Our first night we had a pizza party at the Temple campus and met all the important people, including Dean Strommen and the master of all knowledge, Gianni (pronounced Johnny). I highly recommend anyone who goes to Italy to just eat as much pizza as humanly possible while here, because it is the most amazing and different thing I’ve tasted (and supposedly back home I live five minutes from the pizza capital of the world which is Old Forge).
My second day consisted of orientation and taking a tour of downtown Rome. Man, that was cool! We started at campus (which by the way is just one big building) and traveled to the Piazza del Popolo, which is a nice hangout area just around the corner from the school. We worked our way down to the Spanish Steps and then went to the Trevi Fountain. And for those of you that don’t know, there is a myth that if you toss a coin in the fountain, you will return back to Rome. Personally, after being there for just over a day I was ready to throw about 300 coins in the fountain, but then I thought about how weak the dollar was and that I would be tossing precious Euros into the fountain, which are worth about 1.65 for every dollar, and I quickly contained myself.
After the fountain we went to the Pantheon. All I can say is, “Wow!” This was the building considered the temple of “all the gods” in the middle ages. It was put there because of the great Hadrian (we are taking an excursion to his villa later this week), and he designed it with a huge hole in the middle of the ceiling. This hole is the only light source and when it rains, the ground is designed with about 23 drains which send the water through the sewage system. Pretty impressive for a building that was made in AD 125 if I have to say. After this awesome tour, we saw a couple more piazzas and made our way back home. It was the next day that was a day I have been waiting for since I learned I was going to Rome.
At eight in the morning we were on our excursion to the medieval town of Todi, which is nestled about two hours north of Rome. Todi’s prime time was in about 1300 and since then is the quiet, yet amazing architectural town built on a mountain. We arrived and wandered around this town of about 500 for about two hours, and then we were on our way to the Titignano castle, where we had a very special treat waiting for us. For those people who don’t know me, I was born and raised in a very close family, and the one thing that always brings us together is … FOOD. My dad is the best cook I know and just ask anyone I take home for the holiday; you are guaranteed to go back from a three-day weekend at least weighing 10 pounds heavier. It’s just how we do it. So he would have been proud to know that at Titignano, we were fed a 15-course, four-hour meal. I mean, what is better than eating for four hours? Absolutely nothing!
This meal, accompanied by Titignano’s excellent red and white wines, was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. We had everything from pizza, prosciutto, and chicken, to lamb, wild boar, and risotto. The whole time I ate everything in sight with a giant smile on my face, and I can guarantee you all that it was not because of the wine! The food was simply amazing, and later I found out that Titignano is known for its monstrous portions and amazing meals. Now that I have left, I am truly a believer, and I was pretty full!
My opinion of Todi and Titignano; Todi reminds me of a medieval place that was taken out of the Zelda video game. It is truly a remarkable adventure, and I give it an eight out of 10. Titignano, well, let’s just say that food is the way to a man’s heart, and once being there it could be nothing less than a 10 out of 10 in my book. (No offense, Dad!) The food and scenery were absolutely amazing. Once on top of the mountain, you could see for days, it was quite the day!
So my first couple days have been quite the adventure. I cannot even imagine what is in store for me as the great journey continues!
So my word of the day for everyone is: Grazie! (graz-ziA) – This term means “thank you” and besides ciao (“chow”), which means hello and goodbye, it is the word I have used most since I have been here, and everyone seems to respond when I say it, so I guess I can’t go wrong!
Suggestion of the day: I have been reading “Playing for Pizza” by John Grisham. It is a book about an American football player who goes to Rome to play football. (I thought it was pretty fitting for my situation). The book is great so far, I guess if I had to give a brief synopsis, I would say it is about an American quarterback who has had an above par career as a backup and goes to Rome where he is one of three players on his team who actually gets paid to play the game. The others simply just play for the pizza they get after practices. Now that is what I call love of the game (or maybe love of the food)!
So until next week, I will talk to you all soon! I hope this didn’t make everyone too hungry!
Felipo (a.k.a. Phil Bartocci)
P.S. I am trying my hardest to live by the motto: ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do!” which still reminds me of the movie Anchorman for all you Will Ferrell fans!