English speakers in Rome have to look hard to find some good English-language entertainment in the city. With only two cinemas showing the occasional movie in English and a handful of bookstores with a modest English section, the chances of sitting back and escaping reality without having to translate are few and far between.
Last week I attended the show Broad Cloth Trilogy, part 2 – Body Matters, directed by Dyanne White and part of the “WOW: Women on Wednesdays” series. It was my first time seeing a show by The English Theatre of Rome and I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
Upon arrival at the Teatro l’Arciliuto I settled into the comfortable lounge where spectators wait for one show to end and the next to begin. The maroon walls were adorned with antique instruments and frescos and provided a relaxing atmosphere for a drink before or after a show.
The theater itself is very intimate. A stairway takes you from the waiting room and underground to the theater. The space – probably once a wine cellar – holds an audience of approximately 50 people.
Despite my initial qualms about the size, the show – seven monologues written and performed by women – blew me away. My favorite performances included Gaby Ford’s excerpt from “A Broad Abroad” where she comically demonstrates how to dub a pornographic film while eating fruit into a microphone; “Coming. Ready Or Not” written by Dyanne White where Melissa Palleschi personifies a zit; and Terianne Falcone’s “Sh#t Happens” which demonstrates her ability as a hysterical storyteller.
All of the actors were exceedingly talented and the monologues had me nearly rolling on the floor. My Italian boyfriend was also amused, and insisted that we return for the English-Italian language play that the group performs every season.
My third and final stop on my spring break was the Tuscan town of Lucca.
The city is famous for its medieval walled-in center. On weekends, tourists from Florence and Pisa take a day-trip to Lucca to ride bicycles along the ramparts or just get lost wandering through the streets. Other sites include its many towers, churches, a botanical garden and – my favorite – quaint Tuscan restaurants.
One of the sites I found more fascinating was the Volto Santo in that cathedral of San Martino. It is a wooden carving of a crucifix that is believed to depict what Jesus really looked like. One of the many stories says that Nicodemus planned on carving the wood after Jesus’ crucifixion, but when he finally went to work on it, the face was already there. Above is a fresco of the Volto Santo as seen in the church of San Frediano. This church also houses the remains of Saint Zita – whose mummified body is brought out once a year to be touched by the devout.
My second stop in northern Italy was Ravenna. Famous for its Byzantine mosaics, it's a perfect to pass through for a day or two.
One thing I love about small European cities is that many of them rely on bicycles for transportation. They zig-zag along the streets, cutting-off the pedestrian tourists and speeding by the few cars stopped at a red light. It definitely makes the city feel smaller and less intimidating.
When touring Ravenna, every sight was more impressive than the one before it: A cathedral with extensive mosaic floors. A small mausoleum with brightly colored mosaics in geometric shapes. A basilica, then a baptistery -- all displaying the art in nearly perfect condition.
Once I had enough of mosaics (though in this country there's no such thing as too many mosaics), I went to the Church of Saint Francis where there is a waterlogged crypt with -- come to think of it -- a mosaic floor. Of course, I had to wonder how the goldfish got in there...
For the English literature buffs, tourists can visit the house of Lord Byron near the church. I had to snap this picture for my literature professor, in hopes that he will add a few points to my last exams!
Spring Break is one of the most anticipated weeks on the college students' agenda. It gives them a rest from 9a.m. classes and midnight study groups so they can take what little money they've scraped together waiting tables and travel to a warmer destination. Or go home.
Spring Break for a student studying abroad, however, is just like an extended weekend. With beautiful, historic cities just a train ride away, it doesn't take much planning to grab a ticket in the morning and find yourself in another country by the afternoon.
This Spring Break, I decided to stay in Italy -- but get out of of Rome. My parents were on vacation in northern Italy so I hopped on a train up to Venice to meet them.
A gondola right down a quaint Venetian canal.
Venice is everything the movies make it seem (but a bit colder in March). From the gondoliers in striped shirts to the flocks of pigeons in Saint Mark's Square, the city is absolutely amazing.
One of the best things to do in Venice is get lost. The winding, pedestrian-only streets lead you over small bridges, past shop windows displaying carnival masks and blown glass figurines and open up into picturesque piazzas. Maps prove to be less helpful than in most cities since there's no direct street to any major site.
Saint Mark's Square is the must-see of the city. The cathedral alone displays breath-taking mosaic ceilings and floors, as well a view of the square. The cafes lining the square are known for their exaggerated prices, so tourists avoid the area at lunch time and head for the more quiet neighborhoods.
A trip to Venice is never complete without a ride on the canals in a gondola. The gondolier will take you away from the Grand Canal and into what I like to call the "alleys," (though they are accessible only by boat). It is here that you can experience the true beauty of Venice, and take pause to enjoy the sinking architecture.