Monday, July 21, 2008

When Nights Become Mornings

July 21, 2008

Wow, what a weekend! I am absolutely exhausted....a weekend full of nights that turned into early mornings and good times all around : ) After class Friday, I finally made it to Castel Sant'Angelo, near school, which I have tried to go to numerous times since I've been here but something always interferred. Originally built by Emperor Hadrian as his personal mausoleum, in it's lifetime, the huge castle has variously been a fortress, prison, and papal residence. The Ponte Sant'Angelo, lined with statues of angels, crosses the Tiber River and connects to the entrance of the castle. There isn't really anything specific to see, rather the real charm is exploring at your leisure; inside, Hadrian's sprialing ramp leads to the upper levels and finally to the rooftop terrace, overlooking the Tiber and the city of Rome. From the top there is also a fantastic view of the St. Peter's Square and Basilica. Kathryn joined me, and we were especially lucky that the weather was so beautiful that day...fluffy white clouds were dispersed amongst a clear blue sky, diffusing the light and making for wonderful photographs.
Before going out Friday night, we made some delicious cocktails with sparkling grapefruit juice, rum, and cucumber, which we christened "Gozzadinis" after the name of the street we live on. Carly, Kathryn, Susan, and I then enjoyed an aperativo at Fluid, a hip little restaurant in the city center near our school. I was a little disappointed that most of the food had meat, but I got to eat the best dishes they had - the cous cous! And we had the most amazing cocktails ever...frozen mojitos!! They were absolutely divine, and we'll be going back just for them very soon : ) It was still early when we finished, so we stopped for a glass of sangria at a bar Kathryn had been telling us about. It was good, but not my favorite sangria...it had lots of berries (blackberries and lychee), but was a little too sweet for my taste. While we were there, we struck up a conversation with a really nice couple from Sweden, which lasted for a good hour and covered politics, economy, and much more. It was really refreshing to meet foreigners who were so open and nice and to have a real intelligent, adult conversation. Before we all parted ways, they gave us the rose the guy had bought for his wife! Next we headed to what has become one of our favorite bars, Scholar's Lounge. We sat at the same table as last time and I ordered one of new fave drinks, Strongbow. We made friends with a British guy named Steve at the table next to us, who was supposed to meet his Italian friend but couldn't get a hold of him, so we invited him to join us. The theme of the night - politics and economy - continued as we conversed and talked for quite some time, sipping our drinks and enjoying the music. By about 2am the bar started to get pretty packed and a lot more fun. An italian guy started talking to me while I was at the bar buying a drink, in italian of course, and I actually understood him and was able to talk with him for a bit! He eventually asked for my email address...Although he was a little old for me and there was no attraction on my part, I thought a little correspondence via email would be a good way to practice my italian. We decided to head home around 4am and caught a night bus pretty quickly. We had invited Steve to come to the brunch we'd been planning for the next morning, so he came with us on the bus and we decided to just invite him to crash on our couch since it was so late. When we got back, we stayed up for another hour and finished off a few more "Gozzadinis" while debating various issues, including a very heated discussion on drunk driving. We finally made it to bed around 5am.
The next morning we forced ourselves to get up relatively early and Susan made us an absolutely fantastic brunch. The menu included: polenta with arugala, mushrooms, and parmesan, scrambled eggs with basil and parmesan, fresh sliced tomatoes, roasted potatoes with rosemary, fried pancetta (for everyone besides me), and bellinis with peach juice an proseco. It was really nice to have an American-style, big breakfast for once...I hadn't had eggs in a long time, and I hadn't had polenta since I was a kid and my nonna made it! Afterward, we all went back to sleep to rest up for the opera that night!
I got up around 4 in the afternoon, still a bit tired though, and started to get ready for the opera that night. It was fun to get dressed up for something since I haven't in so long. I figured out a way to do my hair without melting from the heat of the blow dryer too! I moved our fan so it was aimed directly on me in the bathroom as I blew my hair dry, and I remained nice and cool the whole time! I decided to wear my silver dress as it was just dressy enough and is the perfect balance between classy and showy. It was a little awkward wearing nice dresses walking in Rome and especially on the Metro, but we made it work. My feet were still aching as I had worn heels the night before, and was now wearing them again : ( The opera, "Aida" was held outdoors at the impressive ruins of the Terme di Caracalla, the ancient bath houses used by the Romans, and the atmosphere was full of excitement. The ruins right behind the stage were really beautiful and totally unique. Going into it, I wasn't really sure what to expect, and I had a suspicion that opera wouldn't be for me. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I was converted into a fan, but I certainly was impressed and now have a much better appreciation for opera. I had read up on the plot so I wouldn't be lost as it was sung in Italian (although I doubt that even fluent Italians understood much!), so I was able to follow it pretty well. Here is a concise outline of the plot of "Aida" that I found on the internet:

ACT I. In ancient Egypt, near the royal palace at Memphis, Radamès learns from the high priest, Ramfis, that Ethiopia soon may bring war to the Nile valley. The young officer hopes he will be chosen as commander of the army, envisioning triumph so he can free his beloved Aida, Ethiopian slave of the proud Princess Amneris. Amneris, who herself loves Radamès, jealously senses his feelings for Aida when the three meet. A procession led by the King arrives to confirm that the Ethiopians are advancing on Thebes. He appoints the jubilant Radamès as Egyptian commander, at which shouts of victory fill the air. Left alone, Aida is torn between her love for Radamès and for her native land: though now a slave, she is in fact the daughter of Amonasro, king of Ethiopia. She prays to the gods for mercy.
In the temple, as priestesses chant the praises of Ptah, priests consecrate Radamès' sword in a sacred ritual.
ACT II. Ethiopia has been defeated. Amneris, entertained by slaves, prepares for Radamès' triumphal entry into Thebes. When Aida approaches, the princess dismisses her other attendants and tries to learn Aida's private thoughts, first pretending Radamès is dead, then saying he is still alive. Certain from Aida's reactions — horror, followed by joy — that her slave loves Radamès, Amneris leaves for the festivities. Aida reiterates her prayers.
At the city gates, victory is celebrated in parade and dance, a ceremony observed by the King and Amneris. Radamès is borne in and crowned with a victor's wreath. Captured Ethiopians follow, among them Amonasro, Aida's father, who signals her not to betray his identity as king. Impressed by Amonasro's eloquent plea, Radamès asks as his reward that the priests' death sentence on the prisoners be overruled and that they be freed. The King grants this, as well as Amneris' hand, but keeps Amonasro in custody.
ACT III. On a moonlit bank of the Nile, Amneris is led by Ramfis to a temple of Isis for a wedding vigil. Nearby, waiting for Radamès, Aida is overcome with nostalgia for her homeland. Amonasro, who suddenly appears, preys on these feelings, forcing his daughter to agree to ask Radamès where the Egyptian army plans to enter Ethiopia. This she does when Radamès appears, ardent with dreams of their future life together. Just as he reveals the military secret, Amonasro steps out of hiding, and Ramfis and Amneris come forth from the temple. While Aida escapes with her father, Radamès surrenders to the priests as a traitor.
ACT IV. In a temple of judgment, awaiting trial, Radamès is unmoved by Amneris' offer to save him if he will renounce Aida and marry her. When he is led away, Amneris' pride dissolves, her love for Radamès revealed by her agony in hearing him condemned to death. Enraged, the princess curses the judges. Buried alive in a crypt, Radamès is joined by Aida, who has hidden there to share his fate. The lovers bid farewell to earth as Amneris, above the tomb, prays for peace.

The voices were impressive of course, but I was more enthralled by the stage setting and the dance numbers infused throughout the opera (check out the photo album for all my opera pics!). My few complaints were only that it got really cold outside (it was my own fault I didn't bring a jacket) and it was super long - 4 hours to be exact! Since I was tired to begin with from the night before, it made a little hard to sit through such a long performance, especially sitting in such uncomfortable chairs. Overall, I think it was a very unique experience, one which I'm sure I won't get to repeat anytime soon, so I'm really glad I got to see it. Afterward, we were exhausted and didn't want to deal with the infrequent and unreliable night buses, so we tried to get a taxi, but nearly all of the cabs in the area were going to the opera where there was a HUGE line you had to wait in the get one, so we walked toward the Metro station and then tried to call. We must have just had terrible luck, because we just couldn't seem to get one. A big problem was that most cabs only fit 4 people and we had 5, so cabs would keep pulling over but then saying no when we told them how many. Susan finally managed to get a hold of a company and have a cab sent for us, but just as she was about to hang up, a taxi pulled up to us, so she told the operator never mind, and as soon as she disconnected, the driver told us he wouldn't take all of us! Literally an hour later (1am!) we were able to talk a nice cab driver into letting us squeeze in. He took a back route to our apartment that we weren't familiar with, and we were sure he was going to try and cheat us since the meter wasn't running, but to our surprise, he only charged us 15 euro! Since this was clearly much cheaper than it probably should've been, and since he let us squeeze, we tipped him. I have to say, I have rarely been so happy to be home, and around 2am, for the second night in a row, I passed out as the clock moved into the wee hours of the morning.
Unfortunately, sleeping in was not possible because my roommates and I had made plans to go to the beach for the day. We had originally planned on going to a really pretty seaside town outside Rome called Sperlonga, but when we got to the Metro station where the COTRAL bus was supposed to leave, we found out it was really difficult to get there and would take a long time, so we asked if there was another beach we could get to from there, and they recommended Torvaianica, so off we went! The beach was actually really nice, much better than Ostia. The water was pretty warm and clear, and it wasn't overwhelmingly crowded. After laying out on the sand for a while, Kathryn and I decided to rent out the lawn chairs that everyone had...I have to say, it was the best 4 euro I spent that day! The beach has these "chair guys" that carry them to your spot, which we weren't aware of, so as we started to lug these huge chairs back to our spots, the most GORGEOUS guy runs up to us, wondering what we were doing and takes the chairs from us and starts carrying them for us. Kathryn and I were speechless; we looked back several times as he walked away, and he returned the glances! The rest of the day, I kept my eye on him...I think he may have been carrying chairs in front of us on purpose to show off his flexed and defined muscles, leaving me swooning a bit : ) He was seriously the most attractive guy I have ever seen in person. Ever. But enough of that! British Steve ended up joining us a little later, too. After roasting in the sun for a good four hours, we decided to head home. To end the day on a sweet note, we got gelato while waiting for the bus. Mine was delicious of course, but Carly was given the wrong combo of flavors from what she had ordered - she ended up with coffee and watermelon! I seriously could not stop laughing, those are really the most awful flavors to put together, but she braved through it, not wanting to waste good gelato. The bus ride back took forever as we hit lots of traffic, and then we had to take the Metro from the very last stop on the B line, so it took about 2 1/2 hours to get home, around 8:30pm. We all got a bit pink from the sun...some of us more than others! Kathryn literally looks like she has red skin and is wearing a white bikini!
The sun and the past couple late nights left me completely drained, to the point that I felt a little sick. I debated whether I would go to school Monday (since I still have 1 free absence left), and I figured I'd see how I felt in the morning. But when I woke up this morning, I knew if I went to school, I would be a complete zombie, so I decided to sleep in and recover from such an exhausting weekend. It rained again today, but was more humid than ever, and therefore disgusting outside. I finally made it to the store, so no more living off rice. And I finally found some canned beans and lentils, and bought some eggs, so I can finally get some protein and try out different recipes than my usual! This week should be pretty busy with class, and therefore also pretty boring, but I'll update soon enough.

saluti e baci

2 comments:

Sarita said...

I LOVE AIDA!!!!!

Jacalack said...

Hahahahha coffee and watermelon. I love Carly!