Tesoro Irlandese or Irish Darling, is the adventure and travel blog of Ciara Aoife O'Síoráin. Follow for posts on Ancient Rome, Roman Art and Architecture, Italian food and culture, learning Italian as a beginner, how to move to Rome, and tips and tricks about living in Rome as a straniera.
It’s been a hot minute AGAIN. My apologies, but la vita accade and here in Rome, life happens fast. Over the last month where I have been radio silent on the blog, I have been buzzing around Rome in the spring sunshine. During this lovely month of sun-chasing, I have been thinking of new blogpost ideas for you all. Today’s blogpost? My favourite things to do in Rome when you have no money to spend. Andiamo…
Street Art Walks
One of my favourite things about Rome, especially where I live, is how much street art and graffiti there is to be found. La città bursts with colour and talent. I put together two separate Street Art Walks that you can take on a lazy , fair-weather giorno when you’re broke in Rome. One floats you through my side of the city and the other brings you through Pigneto in giro. Throw these locations into your Goggle Maps and enjoy! (Check back for a more in-depth Roman Graffiti/Street Art post as well as a post on the work of the many CSOAs in Rome on Eterna Alternatività)
Via dei Quintili, 1
Via dei Quintili, 163
Via Casilina, 528
Via Capua, 7
Via Cosimo Bertacchi, 16
Opera Muri Sicuri di Carlos Atoche
Street Art Diavù, Via Policastro, 21
Via Lodovico Pavona, 48
Via Antonia Tempesta, 215
Murale Etam Cru, Via Lodovico Paroni, 171
Via Prenestina, 189-187
CSOA Ex Snia (Check out their FB in the link to see what events they are organising, what hours the cultural & social centre is open to the public & how you can support)
Lokomotiv Prenestino (basketball court with graffiti)
Tormarancia, Garbatella, Ostiense, Testaccio:
Tor Marancia Murals (Viale Tor Marancia, 63)
Via degli Armatori
CSOA La Strada (Garbatella)
Porto Fluviale Street Art
Hunting Pollution – Via del Porto Fluviale
Via delle Conce
Murale della Lupa And if you have time… and courage…
Xenos Ex MIRA LANZA
Parks and Public Spaces
There are so many open, well-kept public parks in Rome that it is hard to choose just a few of them. However, I do have my favourites for feeling at one with a piece of the city’s history.
Villa Torlonia and Park Sadly, a lot of the actual sites in the grounds are pay-in, like Mussolini’s War Bunker. However, the park itself is lovely and the historic Villa can be viewed from all sides on the outside. It requires a more inventive approach, but you can definitely provide yourself or your friends with an interesting historical tour with just Google to help you. The Torlonia family had a fascinating rise to the elite ranks of Roman society and the Villa itself has undergone important changes to reflect the times through which it has stood.
Parco degli Acquedotti One of my favourite days in Rome so far. Easter Monday in the Park of the Aqueducts. It is Roman tradition on Easter Monday to hit the parks in droves, bringing BBQs, balls & games and your entire family or friend group to hang out in the sun and spend the day together. So, that is exactly what we did, mere metres away from the Ancient Roman Aqueducts.
Borghese Gardens If you have a group of friends and €5 to spare, I absolutely urge you to hire the group bikes they rent in Villa Borghese. A solid group of 13 of us rented these bikes and had a blast flying around the park. They warn you not to drive dangerously but… Also, in the springtime, the whole park is bursting with daisies and the sound of parakeets. The sunlight comes through the trees in a way that is fit for a film. It is a picturesque way to lie about on a sunny-no-money day, talking and snacking with friends, like we did in this picture.
Free Sites and Sights
Largo di Argentina Cat Garden
Arguably one of the best things about Rome’s city centre: the cat garden. Located just 5 minutes away from the Pantheon and 10 minuti from Piazza Venezia (if even), Largo di Argentina houses a modest gatti sanctuary amidst ancient Roman ruins. There is a gift shop located within the sanctuary itself, found by stepping down into the sottoterra ruins where more cats can often be found, aspettando for a tourist to pet them or just lazying about in a sunny flower pot.
Just a stone’s throw from the Cat Garden, you will find the Pantheon. An architectural wonder that is absolutely free to visit. The queues during Tourist Season can be pazzo, so be prepared to wait. However, it is an absolute must-see for all those interested in Ancient Rome and architettura.
Another must-see “in Rome”: The Vatican City. And again, expect long queues into the museums and Basilica if you are so inclined to see them. However, wandering around in the main area of the Vatican City is also a fantastico way to spend an afternoon, even if you never step foot inside any of the Papal buildings. Walking away from the Basilica, you will reach a bridge bordering Castel Sant’Angelo. Usually, there are musicians and street artists who perform here. It is the perfect place to sit amongst the lazing crowds and ascoltare to free live music.
That’s it for this post! Hopefully it has inspired you to explore this beautiful città even when you are broke. There is no excuse for refusing a Roman adventure. One just has to get a little creative.
Alla prossima, Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una belladonna figa come gli italiani)
Hello and benvenuti to yet another instalment of Roman Hot Tea. This is my Carrie Bradshaw moment. Please, gentlepeople, take your seats. Today, I wish to out myself as not the table-flipping badass I thought I always would be in the face of a total and utter stronzo. I also want to explore some pensieri on social behaviour and the strange place those of us single in our twenties’ find ourselves. I have to tell myself there was a lezione worth learning from this particular date, for me to learn and to inflict upon you kind readers, or else I will lose my mind. Andiamo.
I feel it’s necessario to preface this story by saying that, prior to this anno, I have never really been on the dating scena. As one friend so kindly labelled me, I had been a serial monogamist, opting instead to engage in seriose, long-term relationships since my late teens. After my aforementioned stint of long-terms, ho deciso that I would stay single for as long as I possibly can this year and evvitare all heart-break. But, that gets boring FAST.
However, due to la mia storia, I’m a complete newbie when it comes to dates quindi I followed the usual pattern: I downloaded dating apps, went out to cool posti, started flirting with amici… you know how it goes. So, quando I decided to go on a date with this particular ‘gentleman’, it felt like a grande deal.
He was interessante, quick-witted and così bello. We’d been speaking for a week or two, planning to meet when he moved to Rome. We set a date, chose a time and a place, and on the day … I fell asleep. In my cuore, I think this is why he did le cose that he did. Otherwise, it’s too difficile to believe people behave this way for the craic. When I awoke, I realised my mistake and we rescheduled for the day after. This was my prima mistake.
We met in a publico place, Termini station, and had a good chuckle about the craziness that succede there. He was dressed up in new vestiti, having been shopping before we met. Per dire la verità, he looked fiiiiine. Lezione numero uno: Don’t let good looks fool you. We headed to a local rooftop bar with un bellosquardo over Termini and got to know one another. He was, again, cool and interesting, having travelled extensively and recounted many fascinating things about himself, his family, his values. So far, so good.
We decided to go for cena. In his defence, he DID want us to go to un altro posto initially, but it began to rain heavily, so we went for his second choice. The second choice just so happened to be a 5* hotel with a covered rooftop garden. Looking at the menu, I KNEW that I was not paying extortionate soldi for something here. I chose a simple pasta dish. As I don’t drink alcohol, I wasn’t too worried about my end of things. However… my date chose to order a €30 steak and a €30 bottle of wine. “Okay,” I thought to myself. “Whatever floats his boat.” He swatted off my bemused look with a, “Well it’s €10 for a glass or €30 for the bottle. It’s purely economical.” I agreed. This was my secondo grave mistake. [spoiler alert] Lesson number two: Don’t believe what people say. Believe what people do.
Though it started off promising, this boat soon began to sink. Within the space of an hour, my date had managed to get himself completely inebriated on this bottle of wine. What began with stimulating conversation dissolved into awful babble about how appalled he was to discover a girl he was hooking up with in a club was a single mother. Or, how he does good deeds as he believes in karma, beginning to list off deeds which are ilminimoindispensabile. All the while, I stared at him in disbelief. It was as if a switch had flicked in his head all of a sudden, turning the charming lad into a complete and utter infant before my eyes. Like watching Benjamin Button but on light speed. Deciding this was just not for me anymore, I looked about myself for assistance. The waiter arrived and we briefly discussed the situation in Italian, the language my date does not speak. The waiter laughed and said he would bring the bill for us.
Upon his return, we both peered forward to see the damage. Roughly €80. Before I could open my mouth, my date says, “Oh woah, I can’t afford that.” Suffering myself to be polite, I said we could go half on it and that I didn’t mind doing so. He then looks me dead in the eyes and says, and I quote:
“No. I can’t afford ANY of this.”
My face must have looked like I’d been slapped. By this point, I was done wasting anymore of my time here. I picked up the bill and began to dress myself to leave. And THIS MOTHER-F*&$ER turns to me and says, “Aren’t you gonna wait until I’ve finished my glass of wine?” I am always amazed at my ability to not murder people on a daily basis but this was one time in particular that I felt I should frame and hang in my home if it were possible. He knocked his glass back as I began to walk out of the garden section to pay. At the desk, I had a laugh with the waiters about the whole incident, while he excused himself to the bathroom (assumably too ashamed to actually be present at the paying of a Tinder Swindler dinner)
Arrabbiatissima and shocked at my own inability to be impolite in the face of a raging stronzo, the ascensore ride down was silent on my part, while this fool continued to blaterare, saying he would catch the bill on the secondo date. SECOND DATE?! I didn’t think I could be more horrified. How on EARTH did he think this had went well enough to warrant a second date?
Outside of the hotel, he offered to walk me to my bus stop. I tried to dissuade him, however, he insisted. At the stop, he continued to talk and talk and talk. About mind games he plays while driving. About jobs he had in the past. About foods he’s liked and disliked. If there was a gun nearby, I would have shot myself. It would have been less painful. My bus was 30 minutes late, in classic Romano style. So I waited, and stared incredulously, as this man continued to talk to himself for the entire duration. I put on my face mask to avoid ANY chance that this man might try to kiss me when we parted ways. I had never felt relief like I did when my bus appeared around the corner. Waving goodbye, I ran.
For the following week, I was fuming. More with myself than with anyone else. Perché did I not say anything? Why didn’t I just flip the tavolo and scream obscenities? What made me stay there for so long when ho capito that this wasn’t going the way I had hoped? And why ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH did ho pagato per tutto?! After all the My Favourite Murder episodes I have listened to, why on earth didn’t I “Fuck Politeness” and get out of there?
I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the unfortunately well-known feeling many women like me have grown up having to ‘get wise’ to. When faced with a man who behaves unpredictably and/or shows no respect for social boundaries, one has to find ways to safely make an escape. As much as I would have loved to have thrown the glass of red wine over him while he slagged off single mothers and dramatically sauntered off to the sounds of the restaurant clapping, sometimes it’s just not possible. To do so puts you at risk. Double that down if the person is also ubriaco. Instead, you must grin and bear it, hoping that you have stumbled across only a testa di cazzo and not a full-blown murderer.
Following this evening, having spoken to my friends about the entire evening a hundred times over, I decided I would shake it off and move on. One night, he texted me for an Italian dirty phrase, so I told him I’d tell him when he paid me. It was petty, but at this stage I had had days to vent and decide Fuck Politeness has an important place in my all too easy-going life. And in fairness to him, he did pay. Half. Purely economical.
On a different date, (this time: found through friends, with references, not a complete douchebag) myself, my date and i miei amici all met up and went to a bar. AND CHI WOULD BE THERE but the man himself. I had been dodging his messaggi for days by now and here we both were. I was shocked beyond belief. Per fortuna, my gruppo spoke Italian, so we managed to seat ourselves and avoid him as much as possibile without him hearing our entire conversation about him. However, I couldn’t help but notice who it was that was paying at the bar each time… It wasn’t him… Not ONCE.
In short, I dodged a bullet and learned a very valuable lesson about what it’s like to date in your mid-twenties. This is what I have learned:
If someone shows up to a date dressed in all new fancy clothes they have only bought that day, you can bet your culo that they’ve no money left to spend and dinner will be on you. RUN.
If someone considers handing someone a lighter when asked or holding the door for someone who is directly behind you as something worthy of great karmic reward, RUN.
(This is more specifically for my Recovery pals BUT) If someone plans to order a full bottle of wine for a dinner where you have clearly stated you do not drink, RUN RUN RUN GOD RUN AND KEEP RUNNING AND DO NOT GO BACK FOR ANYTHING. LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND. RUN GODDAMMIT.
Trust your gut and not your eyes. Oops…
Alla prossima, Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)
Everyone feels the desire to love and to be loved (ogni persona avverte il desiderio di amare e di essere amata.) It is something I do not like to admit, preferring instead to pretend to be made of ice & metal, but it’s true.*
Whenever I heard this phrase in the past, I used to silently dry heave. Maybe because it sounds like something that Urban Outfitters would sell on a mug around Valentine’s Day. I had always associated it with romantic love, and so, instantly banished it from my mind as a thing for the soft-of-heart. However, the last few months in Rome have taught me a great deal about love.
Despite my admittedly ‘free’ behaviour romantically this year, it isn’t romantic love that has taken my brain by storm as much as what it is to love more generally. In Italian, one of the verbs, ‘to love’ is amare, as you will see in the title. As much as I want to understand the context in which real life Italians use the verb, and how to conjugate it across the tenses, and why it differs from piacere or volere, I also want to understand exactly what it means to me, personally. What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to be loved?
I began thinking deeply about love after a hilarious, yet somewhat disturbing, conversation I had with a priest-friend. While discussing the possibility of swapping sleep patterns (I sleep like a log, he barely sleeps at all), he told me ‘tutto è possibile in amore‘ and I thought to myself, ‘Hold your god damn horses there, Father.’
Thinking he was also confused by the many different Italian verbs for love, I explained the difference between ti voglio bene and ti amo, like the do-gooder I am. However, he responded with ‘ma non è possibile essere innamorato con te?‘ Do-gooders be damned, I responded, as calmly as I could with ‘… No?’ to which he replied, ‘Ma come no?’ Having lost my shit, I decided my best approach would be to textually yell the truth: Perché tu non sai chi sono io!‘ After a long attempt on my behalf to extract further information on what in the living fuck was going through his head, and failing miserably, he left me with the response, ‘Amore è amore. Non è piùpossibile spiegare.’ I have promptly refused to engage with any further conversation, however, I must thank him through the medium of prayer, as for weeks now I cannot get it out of my head. Like the rebellious, head-strong person I am, all I want to do is explain it more, analyse it more, tear it open and look inside. It has looked a little something like this:
What kinds of love do I recognise? What kinds of love do I value? What kind of love do I give and what kind of love do I accept? Where does love grow from? Why do we love at all? What happens in the absence of love? Can you fall in love at first sight? Is there a love hierarchy? How does love shape the course of your life? How many ways can love shape the course of your life? Who has power in the love that shapes it? Do we give this power or do they take it? Is it a constant exchange? How does the power dynamic of love shift? With friends? With family? With partners? With age? With wealth? With infidelity? With new commitments? How does it look when I love someone? Do the people I love know I love them? What does love feel like to me? What does it feel like to love me? What does love do in the brain? What lengths have people gone to for love?
As you can imagine, I have found very few concrete answers to such philosophical questions on the point of loving and being loved. I think what my priest-friend has began in my head, albeit accidentally, is a life-long adventure to define further, understand more, per spiegare di più. However, what I can offer are some of the love-lessons I have learned while here in Rome, through platonic and romantic adventures, and from my nearest and dearest loved ones.
1. An act of love can come in many shapes and forms, often in ways you least expect
In the course of my time here in Rome, and especially at my language school, I have met some incredible people. People who have shown me unending kindness and who fill my heart on a daily basis. When I had Covid-19, they brought me my groceries and checked in everyday. When I was feeling low, an angel-friend brought me preserved spicy chillies to cheer me up. They sit now in my fridge, reminding me daily that wonderful people exist out there in the world.
Meaningful acts of love, for me at least, are rarely grand gestures paired with an immeasurable amount of roses. Often, it is the text to ensure I have made it home safe, the handwritten letter with life updates or receiving a joke link to an Irish rebel song as a ‘reminder of my roots’. The lovely Giulia added to this lesson, commenting that, because everyone’s definition of love is different, you have the opportunity to experience love from many different perspectives and in many different ways.
2. When someone is not right for you, whether as a friend or more, you often know from the off. Trust your gut.
Nobody puts it better than my dear friend Yu Jung. When I asked my friends to comment on love and it’s signification, she replied: ‘Depending on the love received, love has an expiration date and sometimes it becomes damaged or disappears.’ This ties nicely into the most difficult love lesson I have had to learn. Whether as a friend or as more, keeping someone around in your life who does not support you, nourish you or help you to grow, just because you love them, is not healthy.
It is why I love what Yu Jung says: Depending on the love received. If the kind of ‘love’ you are receiving from your loved one is actually becoming harmful to your POV of others and of yourself, then perhaps that relationship is past its sell-by-date. When a relationship becomes damaged, and either side does not want to put in the work to repair it, holding on to it will only bring more agony in the long run. Cut your losses and trust your gut. Life is too short to spend time chasing after people who do not bring joy into your life. Especially when the world is full of people who will, if you give them the time.
3. Vulnerability is ugly, but necessary.
Over the past few weeks, the internet will NOT let go of the idea of ‘getting the ick.’ Everywhere I scroll, someone somewhere is giving out about some mundane thing someone did that gave them the ick. Some are admittedly hilarious, like getting the ick from how someone pronounces ‘schedule’ on a first date, but others are just full on toxic reasons to end important relationships. Discussing our mutual horror at ‘ick culture’, myself and Ale came to a conclusion about our own ick about The Ick.
So many of people’s ‘ick’ responses were to people revealing vulnerability and imperfection: dropping their phone in puddles, fumbling with their keys, stammering while ordering at the counter, getting nervous before an interview, etc. It got me thinking about how much of the discourse around ‘the ick’ is just people refusing to see their partners as flawed human beings, with the potential of ground-breaking self-humiliation as well as self-improvement and success.
Maybe I just feel particularly called-out as a INCREDIBLY clumsy person. But there is something insidious about ‘ick’ discussions that turns vulnerability into something of which others should be embarrassed. Considering ‘the ick’ is most predominantly spoken about in romantic relationships, too, it leads me to wonder why anyone would promote the notion that to be vulnerable and imperfect (i.e. human) is an unacceptable way to be in their relationship with you. To me, this is a massive red flag. Get the ick all you like, sis, I want something that will last. If how I tie my shoes is what gets you running, do me a solid & RUN.
4. Trust what you are shown.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I fancy someone, I do my very best to see them in the best possible light at all times. Even to my own detriment, where they are absolutely not the person that I had hoped. It usually takes a close friend to grab me by the face and yell ‘THIS PERSON IS A RAGING STRONZO/A/E.’ However, lately, I’ve been getting better at seeing people for how they behave, and not just what they say or intend to be, and MY GOD, how much easier life is. But it’s hard to know where’s the line.
Obviously, when you first start dating someone, you’re usually both on the fence about what to reveal, what to show, what to share. As you grow closer, share more experiences together, this becomes easier and you become more open about yourself. But this is also where, for me, the problems begin. In the past, I would happily ignore problematic behavioural patterns in favour of believing how they explained them away:
– Flaky and cold? Just busy (even beyond it making any sense: you just aren’t a priority) – Overly-possessive and jealous? Just concerned for you (ABSOLUTELY NEVER AGAIN! RED FLAG x19378346) – Exploitative and greedy? Just loves sharing (though they never pull their weight?)
You could say I was just a complete and utter fool and you’d be right. But honestly, dating is a complete minefield (stay tuned for my next post about my latest dates in Rome). But with the last couple of dates I’ve been on, I can quite happily say I trusted entirely what I was being shown and not what I was listening to. In sum: – Absolute stronzo, probably one of the worst humans I’ve ever met. Despite how much they talked themselves up, they were, in reality, completely and utterly tragic. – A total gem. Kind and gentle towards me and towards others. Generous but also not controlling about it. Green flags all around. – Kind towards me but ultimately not very kind towards others. A big no from the judges.
This has become ultimately a great time-saving tool, and ties nicely into point numero uno. Trust your gut. If something is twisting you up about the way they behave themselves and their explanations just don’t sit right, you have every right to get up and go. Life is too short and there are so many people out there. Just try not to run away from someone on the basis of how they hold their phone, or the ratio of their ketchup:mayo mix. Please for the love of God, I can’t eyeroll anymore.
Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli Italiani)
* I had INTENDED to post this at Valentine’s Day, but then I had a week or two of some seriously wild drama. I cannot WAIT to tell you about it… After I block a couple of people… Talk to you soon!
I have been wanting to write this post for weeks now. But, in classic Ciara fashion, the more I want to write about it, the harder it becomes to write about it. The more I indulge in the research, the less sure I am that I have all the information that I want to put into this post. However, with Covid-19 knocking me out this week, I’ve decided to sit down and just do it.
When I first moved to Rome, I quickly set about looking for alternative spaces in which to find my people. Queer spaces, Art spaces, Women-led spaces, Queer women leading art spaces… You get where I’m going… And then, I discovered this delightful period of Roman history.
Charlotte Cushman: America’s First Star
Charlotte Cushman was born in Boston in 1816. She was encouraged to train as an opera singer and followed this career path in order to support her family after the death of her father. However, her voice failed her and she pivoted to become an actress. Taking to the stage, Cushman performed as Lady Macbeth in 1836 and from there, her star rose.
Cushman is often considered the “first native-born star on the American stage”, having become internationally successful for her theatrical performances in both male and female roles. In 1845, she played Romeo opposite her sister, Susan, playing Juliet. This performance was well-received, with the sisters playing romantic roles considered to be chaste and maidenly. This was a clever PR move for Cushman. Ever aware of the importance of the public’s approval for her success, Cushman published many “ladylike pieces” for Godey’s Lady Book and Ladies Companion, in order to present herself to her audience as chaste and wholesome, but also, to push herself forward as a household name.
But being a Shakespearean star in America was nothing unless she could make a name for herself in England. Cushman sailed for England in 1844. In London, she was incredibly successful and well-received, creating a wave in London and later, in Dublin (My hometown!). While in London, she became acquainted with many women artists. It was here where she met Matilda Hays.
Matilda Hays & Charlotte Cushman
Matilda Hays was born in 1820. They were an English writer, journalist but also an actor. They were an avid supporter and advocator for women’s rights and also co-founded the English Woman’s Journal, in order to promote women’s writing and discuss better opportunities.
Hays met Cushman in the years between 1846-1848, when Susan left the stage for marriage and Hays stepped in to take her place. Soon after, they began a lesbian relationship that would last for 10 years. They were recognised within Europe as a couple and would dress in similar clothes to each other, wearing tailored shirts and jackets. One source I found mentions that Hays was often referred to by their closest friends as Max or Matthew, and in many diary entries and letters, Hosmer and co. refer often to Hays as Max. In 1852, Cushman retired from acting and joined Hays in Rome, where they lived together openly in a community of expatriate lesbian artists and sculptors…
Across sources, there have been many named possibilities for where this community of women artists lived. However, it is mostly agreed that they lived at Via del Corso, 28, with Stebbins and Cushman later moving to Via Gregoriana, 38, in their later time in Rome.
Their community of creatives was established to promote and support the work of female artists. They were well situated for access to skilled artists to learn from, examples of well rendered art, as well as access to inexpensive marble. Living as part of this ‘white, marmorean flock,’ as dubbed by Henry James, was Charlotte Cushman, Matilda Hays, Harriet Hosmer, and journalist Grace Greenwood. However, many others were associated with this community built up around their Via del Corso residence, including Margaret Foley, Edmonia Lewis, a favourite artist of Cushman’s, and Florence Freeman. William Wetmore Story named this group a “harem (scarem) of emancipated females,” while Henry Wreford described them as “a fair constellation of twelve stars of greater or lesser magnitude, who shed their soft and humanising influence on a profession which has done so much for the refinement and civilisation of man.”
These artists were incredibly successful in their respective fields in a time where it was not commonplace for women to practice, let alone succeed.
Cushman’s successes have been somewhat discussed above, but it is worth mentioning that the legacy she left on the theatrical world rendered acting to be less of a demeaning profession for women.
Hosmer, like Stebbins, was a talented sculptor, who defied the norms of her time to become an acclaimed artist. Despite anatomy being a subject reserved for men and one that is necessary for a sculptor to succeed, Hosmer received private tuition in order to fulfil her dreams. She moved to Rome in order to pursue her career, however, her father was unable to support her. This did not deter Hosmer, who tenaciously worked to ensure she gained patronage of wealthy tourists to Rome. She was a student under the English sculptor, John Gibson. Her most acclaimed work is Puck.
Stebbins was a driven and talented sculptor, enjoying early career success with her work exhibited at the National Academy of Design and being nominated to be an associate member of the group. Her most renowned work is the Angel of the Waters, also known as the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
Hays was a successful writer and champion of women’s rights, who co-founded the English Woman’s Journal as discussed above, but also, on their return to England, became heavily involved in the founding of The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, as well as The Victoria Press.
Love, Loss and Lesbianism in the Eternal City
When Cushman joined Hays in Rome in 1852, she was accompanied by Harriet Hosmer, an acclaimed sculptor, and Cushman’s life-long friend and maid, Sallie Mercer. Hosmer had met Cushman a few years before and had become enthralled with this independent, strong-willed woman. However, when she arrived in Rome, Hosmer quickly began an affair with Hays, who left Cushman for Hosmer, but eventually returned to Cushman. This left lasting damage on their friendship, and though they remained friends, Cushman and Hosmer were never as close as before. In the final years of Cushman’s life, Hosmer and Cushman fell out entirely. Unsurprising, really, for such a tumultuous relationship but sad nonetheless…
And the drama doesn’t stop. By 1857, Cushman had fallen desperately in love with another young and talented sculptor, named Emma Stebbins. Stebbins was born in 1815 and her talent was encouraged from a young age. She studied with the portraitist Henry Inman and also with the sculptor Edward Brackett. After gaining a reputation as a skilled artist, Stebbens travelled to Rome with her mother and sister and fell in love with the city. In 1857, she moved in with Harriet Hosmer and studied under John Gibson. Hosmer introduced Stebbins to the bohemian, feminist lifestyle she was living and to the many female artists in her social circle. This is, assumably, how she met Cushman and fell in love.
From here, Stebbins and Cushman began an intimate, secret relationship. However, Hays figured it out and accused Cushman of the truth, chasing her around their home and beating her. There is a delightfully scandalous source of Anne Brewster’s diary entry about the tumultuous night that you can read here. This was the end of their 10 year relationship, with Hays moving out of their community home. According to the diary entry, Harriet Hosmer was witness to Hay’s violent outburst against Cushman and from that day banished Hays from her company. Hays attempted to sue Cushman, stating that they had sacrificed their career to support Cushman and that they were entitled to compensation. Cushman settled and the two parted ways, with Stebbins moving into the house soon after. Hays moved back to London and met Theodosia Dowager Lady Monson, a women’s rights activist. The two became an item, with Lady Monson becoming Hays’ final life partner.
Stebbins and Cushman were together until the end of Cushman’s life in 1876. Despite Cushman’s discrepancies with another woman, Emma Crow, Stebbins put aside her sculpting career to care for Cushman when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1869. They travelled together to try and receive appropriate treatment, however, to no avail. Cushman died of pneumonia in Boston, at age 59.
So, how was it that in the 1800’s, lesbianism was a socially acceptable practice? How is it possible that the first American theatre star could go unheard of by the majority? At the time, the idea of women having sexually desirous relationships was unfathomable to the general public. Sexual desire was considered an entirely masculine trait. So, close relationships between women, even romantic ones, were considered to be incredibly chaste. However, after Cushman’s death, these ideas of romantic and sexual love between women changed and her identity and success was trivialised and obscured.
One thing is for sure. This ‘harem of emancipated women’ is absolutely fascinating and involved some of the most interesting and talented artists of their time. It truly breaks my heart that I have not stumbled across a modern day equivalent here in the streets of Rome… Yet…
Ciara O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)
I know, I know. I promised I would post more frequently. Ma poi… arriva la vita. So, while I have a day to myself, I am going to feed you this GIGANTIC mega post to fill you in… Read as you wish, dip in and out, throw your whole laptop out the window… I don’t care. But if you DO decide to read, you might find out some secrets about my life here in Rome… Ok, andiamo…
The title of this post is inspired by my wonderful italian-speaking friend. While moaning about how I have been wildly busy and have been unable to find a moment to write the blogpost I really want to write, she laughed and said to me ‘stai cazzeggiando!‘ I hope you will agree that this is an essential phrase. It means ‘you are f*cking about,’ and by GOD, have I been. Let me catch you up.
Since my last post, I have become a regular social butterfly and have gone on numerous adventures with my newly-acquired friends. I had intended to write up each place in its own separate post, with its history and impression, but I honestly cannot find the time, SO HERE WE ARE. Instead, I will tell you what I saw, what I did, and what happened.
According to my phone (because I have no concept of time living here), on January 17th, myself and two friends went on an adventure to the Verano Monumental Cemetery. The cemetery is situato in the San Lorenzo neighbourhood, a neighbourhood known for being full of students and their exuberant energy. However, inside the grounds, it was incredibly quiet, bar me stessa and my friends babbling to each other in our elementary Italian.
My dear friend Ben has a vast knowledge of basically tutto. On this occasion, he delighted us with the story of the cemetery and the various important gente who were buried here. As a not-particularly-religious person, I did not absorb much of this knowledge. However, one thing I really enjoyed was visiting the tomb of a young ragazza. Her statue seems as though it moves forward past you, striving into the next life, with only her nome engraved below: Mathilde. We left her a rose on her grave before we left to grab a coffee and chill as the sun fell.
Ristorante Hokkaido & Faffing About
January 18th, I went on as I meant to continue. After our language lezioni, Yu Jung, Emma and myself all headed to our favourite boojie lunch spot near Termini: Ristorante Hokkaido. It is a Japanese buffet ristorante where you can order all you like after paying a flat dining fee. My god, do we love it here. You can get sushi, rice dishes, noodle dishes, sizzling meat servings – you name it. It is SO GOOD. And not crazy caro, which, if you are broke most of the time like me, is important.
After eating ourselves sick, we floated to a cafe to laze in the sun. You will see by now a pattern is forming. Most days (sun willing) I find myself falling helplessly into a sedia somewhere to lie in the sunshine and drink coffee in its final rays. It is a time honoured Roman tradizione. One of my favourite things about having Italian language friends is how essential it has become to speak Italian. With no other common lingua between us all, Italian is the easiest way for us to connect and share our stories. Or imparare origami… Like we did on this day.
Romeow Cat Bistro, Basilica San Paolo Outside the Walls & Trastevere Aperitivo
Ok, so January 18th I had an ODYSSEY of a day. After scuola, lounging around having coffee with friends, we all decided on a plan to go out that evening for drinks in Testaccio at Tram Depot. It was my idea, and eventually, mia culpa, because I had been there before with a boyfriend and I had loved the atmosphere.
Alessandro and I decided we wanted to adventure more. I hadn’t been back to the cat bistro in too long, so I dragged our dumb asses down to my part of la città to stare lovingly at some fluffy cats, drink coffee and eat tiramisu. It was worth every single cent.
After hanging out with some gatti, we went to The Basilica of San Paolo and my god, it was stunning. Despite living vicino, I had never been inside before. It is incredible.
Poi, we headed out to Testaccio only to find Tram Depot chiuso. With our friends hot on our heels, we decided to pivot and made tracks to Trastevere instead where we found the rest of our group. We had a great night, however, all the photos I took are APPALLING, so, moving on …
Hidden away, only 10 minutes walk from the Villa Borghese, is this absolutely dreamy district in Rome. January 22nd, I decided I was going on an after-school avventura to Coppedè. Ale and I got the bus and trekked our way to this lesser-known fantasy district. I will not try to speak to the beauty of this quartier, but per fortuna, I actually took semi-decent photos of the beautiful fountain and buildings which make up this area.
After this leisurely stroll around a neighbourhood of embassies, we walked through the Villa Borghese Gardens and up to one of the most famous viewpoints over Rome. It does not get much more beautiful than that. After a pisolina back at my apartment to wake up, I got dressed for the night ahead. I met Yu Jung and her best friend for dinner in Trastevere. We then went to drinks with our friends and ended the night in unluogo secreto which for legal reasons I cannot name or declare the purposes of… but it was cracking. 101 and if you know, you know.
Cena with friends
Ok, on January 24th I had the most delicious meal of my life courtesy of marvellous Yu Jung. Again, I took cute photos but I will retain the privacy of my friends. HOWEVER, I will inform you that during this delightful dinner amongst friends I received an absolutely inappropriate message from a man of the cloth. That is all I have to say. No more questions, please and thank you.
Volunteering in Rome
To wash off my secondhand sin (just kidding), I met with the Community of Sant’Egidio in Roma to help with their food drive on January 27th. I had actually completamente forgotten that I had signed up for more information until I received una chiamata the night before to join them for a mass and after, a food drive. I felt a bit nervous, if I am honest. Usually, I can fake it ’till I make it in new social situazioni, but this was my first real time interacting with true Italians in Italian in a non-customer setting. Other than some sneaky dates… Anyways, andiamo avanti.
My fears were unfounded. Not only was I able to understand quasi tutto of what was said during the mass, but the community were so welcoming and gentile. I don’t know why that surprised me, given that they are a group of volontari, however I really appreciated it. We split up into gruppi based on what areas needed us and divided the food and supplies.
Given that I live close to Garbatella, Ostiense and Tor Marancia, I was a part of this group. Our group ha fatto un giro to provide food and beverages to those who lived in campers, under shelters and in porticos around the area. With one uomo in particular, I had a great chat in Italian, where he was dismayed to find out that I am ventiquattro and unwedded. I laughed and agreed with him. I asked him if he knew any suitable suitors for me. It was his turn to laugh at me.
After school, myself, Ben, Yu Jung and Emma all met up to go see the Palazzo Massimo collection. Inside, there is an incredible array of wall paintings, sculptures and busts from Ancient Rome, most of which, I gather, was from the Late Republican period onwards. You know what that means.
The fantastic Classics nerd that I am, I then subjected Ben to an impromptu seminar about memory and commemoration in the Ancient Roman Empire, including frequent rambling tangents to discuss my favourite Ancient Greek plays and why the sculptures displayed are so important. I imagine, much like how I zoned out in the cemetery, he more than likely nodded his head and smiled like every good friend should when their friend goes off on a passion rant.
After the museum, we all regrouped for a quick wake-up drink and a bite to eat. I went on my merry way home, knowing I had to get ready for aperitivo at 9pm with friends. However, plans changed and we ended up hanging out in our friends’ appartamento for their last night in that palazzo. Despite not drinking and despite my assurances that we would get l’ultimo metro home, we ended up playing and staying out until the first metro the following day… This may or may NOT have been my fault. However, I doubt any witnesses will come forward to testify to my guilt… I have damning evidence…
The following Sunday, mi sono svegliato early to adventure out to the famous Porta Portese Mercato. This market is gigantic, held every Sunday, and takes up the entire Via Portese. After such an active few days, I was totally broke, so I didn’t imagine I would find anything I’d really want to buy… but then…
After buying an adorabile jumper and a pair of sunglasses (THEY WERE ESSENTIAL, OK!), I bumped into an amico who was shopping with the same guilty expression I was. We wandered through the stalls together and chatted about our classes, our styles, what life was like before COVID-19, who we were when we were younger, who we want to be… You get it. After a while, we wandered off to meet yet another friend for lunch who was leaving the very next day to go home. Over delicious pasta and fried artichokes, we planned her final night.
Again, it is always me who wrangles tutti into coming on a night out, despite the fact I am spesso the first to leave. We all reunited at Coming Out Bar by the Colosseo. Somehow, no matter how careful we are, we always managed to have some sconosciuto cause us drama every time we come to this bar. Our first group outing, we had a sugar baby, her sugar daddy and a very high-on-coke-friend of hers almost cause a rissa da bar. This time, we had a creepy old man who tried to buy everyone a bevanda so he could lurk on my dear carino baby friend. Oh, not on my watch, Mister Boomer. Sfortunato, seeing as the staff and people in the bar are some of the loveliest people in Rome. Honestly, I think it is noi.
Sick of this creep, we all sketched out to our other favourite hangout: Blackmarket Hall in Monti. Safe from creepy men and drug-related shenanigans, we came back together to celebrate our wonderful friend and try to convince her to abandon her life back home and just stay in Rome with us forever. We did not succeed, with her reminding us all that we all have lives to get back to at some stage but that we will always have Roma to bring us back into the delightful, delicious nonsense that is being 20-something and the days where non facevamo altro che cazzeggiare.
Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)
I recently had an illuminating conversation with my best friend on the nature of love and friendship. He had recently experienced heartbreak in a friendship and we discussed the pure searing agony that is having to decide whether to let a friendship go or whether you should stick it out and hope things get better.
Being let down by friends can be a far more painful experience than being let down by a romantic partner. There is so much more air that stings the wound, somehow. It can also be far more confusing, as even though you are both emotionally invested in the other person in so far as you care about them and (if it’s a healthy relationship) want to see the other succeed, there are not the same amount of readily available, source-reliable guides on how to deal with friendship hiccups and heartbreaks as there are relationship guides. But the pain a beloved friend can cause you can be as excruciating as that caused by a beloved partner.
Throughout the pandemic, friendships have had to adapt to new ways of maintaining their spark in the absence of weekly/monthly meet-ups for coffee, a pint, a wander, a good aul gossip. These new methods of communicating online can be great for some, but also, intensely lacking for others. In the gap between real life experience and online communication, there is a greater potential for miscommunication. There is also the added pressure of being ‘online’ and ‘available’ all the time, something entirely unrealistic for any person, regardless of their relationship.
In that gap, you will also find the great enemy: loneliness. When I feel lonely and in need of a cup of something warm & a chat, I reach out to my closest friends. My friends have always made me feel incredibly safe in their company and able to speak my mind as freely as I need to. I am lucky beyond words to have good friends that I love and who I know love me. However, that is not to say I do not have my moments of paranoid doubt or that I haven’t befriended some incompatible people. To me, feeling that your friends are not there for you when you need them most, or feeling that they do not care about you as you care for them, is surely the loneliest feeling in the entire world.*
Bizarrely, even though this feeling is immensely lonely, it might be comforting if you have experienced it acutely during the pandemic to know you are not alone. A recent Harvard study found 61% of people aged 18-25 reported feeling high levels of loneliness and social isolation. Learning of this percentage, I was both comforted to know I was not alone in feeling isolated, staring unendingly into a screen, but also shocked that so many people reportedly feeling lonely. Staring at Instagram all day long in the early days of lockdown, I had come to believe that I was the only one who actually was staying at home, not seeing their friends for weeks, dreaming of just one movie night snuggled up on the sofa with my best friends again. Instagram, of course, is not a place to gather your ‘truths’ from.
I decided to be proactive about my feelings of social isolation and interrogate what it was about this experience that had made me feel so isolated. It’s a strange thing, trying to keep up with your friends solely through the online world. It makes ‘time’ confusing. When they are ‘available’, or rather, when Facebook tells me that they are ‘available’ i.e. online, they usually aren’t actually available. They are more than likely, like me, doom scrolling news about the climate, or deep diving through their old photos to try find something from 2012, or stalking someone’s Facebook that they used to know from primary school on the bus home because they thought they saw them again, four seats ahead, fifteen years later … but couldn’t be sure. They are just existing out there in the world, busy living, and, should I text them right at that moment, I am sure they will instead text back at a time when they are ‘mentally available’ to check in and talk about their lives.
But the ‘illusion’ of availability has made friendship far more toxic than it needs to be, or was for me at least, before the pandemic hit. There is a fear in me now that I never had before, that when if I try to reach out into the tech void and attempt to connect with someone I care about, that I will fail to do so, fail to be a priority to them, fail to keep the connection alive. Which is entirely bizarre. Many of my friends solely speak to me by letters and postcards which I love because it entirely mitigates this bizarre fear I have, fed ever more by the ability to see who is watching my Instagram stories, reacting to my posts, liking my Tweets, but not responding.
But my friendships with these lovely letter writers never falter with time, so why should my friendships falter with those who use the same social media as me? It became clear to me that my friendships were not the problem here but how I was simplifying the many complex ways social media creates notions of ‘ease of connection’ when connection has truly remained the same. We are just consuming it so much faster, and by seeing others socialising online and in person through pictures they posted online, it becomes an all-consuming thought that we are in a social connection-lack. Even if every single friend I have messaged me something through social media every single day, I would probably be unsatisfied. Because this is not a real connection. It doesn’t feel like friendship. That is the root of the rotten tooth.
I try to remind myself, when I begin to become paranoid about my friendships, that the situation is almost like bumping into your friend on the street. You do not immediately get to dictate that they will have time to be available for you and they certainly may not dictate that you should be available to them instantly, just because you happened to bump into each other in a passing moment between busyness. By both being online at the same time, you’ve virtually ‘bumped’ into each other, but do not necessarily have the time to stop and chat or grab a coffee. What is jarring is the frequency of online bumping you do (lol) when you do not have ‘real time’ available. Maybe it is just me, but it is the core of what makes me feel so disconnected. As though I have bumped into the same friend 5 times in one day, where we have both said we’re too busy to stop. But at what point do you stop bumping into each other and start planning to meet up? And when the world of ‘bumping into’ has moved online, there’s so much less satisfaction from these ‘meet ups’ anyway. In the ‘real world’, when you want to leave a conversation/situation, you can just tell the other person that you’re leaving, with a simple ‘well, thanks for coffee, I’m off!’ Online, you can just disappear without a word. And I often do, though mistakenly, because I am notorious for reading someone’s response on my lock-screen, thinking up a reply, and forgetting to ever write and send it. These jarring moments of bumping and departing leave me feeling social depleted even when I’m feeling socially disconnected.
Instead, I feel most connected to my friends when they call me at random (usually something that would get you blocked if I did not know you – I hate phone calls) to tell me about their day, or a dream they had where we went somewhere ridiculous, or to ask for my advice about something. When I receive their letters or postcards detailing how the last three months of their lives have been, what they hope to achieve this year, what they felt about the last one. Or when they send me photos of a day we spent together pre-pandemic that they thought I’d like to see. Or, my personal favourite, when they send me a voice-note wheezing laughing because they just heard a joke they think I’d find funny, so have called to tell me the joke, but end up just cackling down the phone to me for the entire duration. These are the moments I feel most connected to my friends. And sure, social media makes them happen, but I think it is more because they are in time with real life. They connect me back to the ACTUAL timeline… of my life that is passing while I’m staring at a green dot on a fake chat page, backdropped by a timeline of fake, humorous news articles, dogs doing tricks and strangers fighting in the Adrian Kennedy and Jeremy Dixon comments section.
The pandemic has changed everything about how we interact with one another, from the frequency of face-to-face contact, the distance we stand from each other in person, what ways we work together, how we keep in the loop about each other’s lives. Whether we like it or not, everything has changed.
To feel loved by my friends, sometimes I find it is far easier to disconnect from them on social media. I want to connect with them in real-life, in real-time, when we can genuinely ‘bump’ into each other at an opportune moment, both choose to ‘grab a coffee’ and talk all night on the phone about whatever dumb idea we followed blind that week.
Ciara Aoife O’Siorain (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)
My Top Tips for Fighting Connection Lack Blues:
Reach Out: This may seem obvious, but it is something I have a tragically hard time doing. If you have people in your life who you love and who you miss, reach out to them. Tell them about the book you read that you think they’d like or ask if they’ve read anything they think you’d like. Ask for new song recommendations. Tell them your weird dreams. Engage on a level that is meaningful for you both. It won’t seem so unnatural to slip back into chatting about the ‘real’ things once you’ve connected back to what you both love.
Journalling: As a writer, it may come as NO surprise that my remedy to all inner ills is to write. It doesn’t matter where, how, or what you say. It doesn’t need a narrative. It doesn’t even need to make sense to anyone but you; just write it all out. For me at least, when something is bugging me and getting me down, I will get absolutely no clarity from mulling it over again and again in my head. It needs to be right in front of me, in my own words, before I can set it straight for myself.
Be Your Own Best Friend: If there is any piece of this post that I hope you take with you, it is this. Be your own best friend. I do not mean ‘shut off everyone you know and go solo through the world’. Instead, I mean work on loving yourself and working on yourself so that you feel more at home in your own head. It is not an easy task nor is it a linear process. But if there is one thing I am grateful to my past self and current self for doing, it is beginning a process of self-care where I truly work on being my own best friend first. Knowing what I value in friendships, knowing what my strengths are, knowing where I need to work more, learning and relearning what makes connection to others meaningful to me. It is this part of self-care that makes the earlier dilemma of knowing when to call it quits in relationships a whole lot clearer.
This is not really a tip, but a reminder: You are wonderful and you deserve wonderful things. Be gentle with yourself.
*Second only to being trapped on a desert island with none of the items you requested during a fun thought experiment with friends.
Almost six months ago, I wrote my first Tesoro Irlandese blogpost. In this post, I spoke about my intentions for moving to Rome and my intentions with the blog. Upon rereading my 2021 content in anticipation of 2022, I have found myself to have misled my own content. Please accept my most sincere apology.
I had hoped to write this blog with the intention of documenting my adventures and my experiences in Rome, the city I fell in love with so many years ago. Instead, I have only documented my adventures. Rarely have I let you into my head. Please accept this belated invitation.
Initially, I imagined this blog would only reach as far as my friends and my family. However, it has stretched out and reached all the way to India, Canada, China, Australia, USA, New Zealand and South Korea, much to my pure joy and befuddlement. Somehow, knowing there is a wider audience than just my closest friends, I feel as though I must show up to my original intentions and show you much more of my real lived experiences in Rome. If you wanted a simple travel blog, I’m sure you could find that steady high-quality content elsewhere.
After taking to Instagram to pick my audience’s collective brain on what content they have been missing, I heard loud and clear that I must follow up with my intentions and give you all the dirty secrets and drama that inevitably come with growing into myself in a new place. Over the coming months, I will be filling this blog with all my favourite places, spaces, adventures, food, music and venues as before. But this time, I solemnly swear to give you all the hot T & spicy musings, too. (You will find all this content over on this Crybaby O’Clock page)
As I say in Blogpost One, I had hoped that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in Rome would open up for me many of the avenues of myself that I had long ago forgotten; that it would remind me of who I have been, who I am, and who I will be. I called it a coming home to myself and, interestingly, translated that to diventare uno con me stessa. To become one with myself. It has been a difficult but wholly rewarding process so far and I cannot wait to share with you more of myself. The more I discover here, in the places and people I meet, the more I find myself again.
Alla prossima, Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)
There are a lot of highs and lows that come with moving abroad during a global pandemic, as you can probably imagine. But I’ve decided, in this post, I am going to focus solely on the good and the hilarious as I wrap up this year’s blogposts and take a well deserved break. In this post, I wrap up my top five moments in Rome 2021 (of which I can speak about publicly lol). I also lay out some of my New Year Resolutions in the hopes that if I say them aloud, I will feel more accountable.
Without further ado, N. 1
Meeting the Swedish Ambassador: You would think this would be a cool moment for me. It was not. In classic Ciara fashion, I did not realise who the person was who had just joined our language group. Thinking I’d demonstrate my Irish storyteller side, I launched into a story about my dear Italian friend teaching me important Italian phrases, such as ‘Sculacciami papí e chiamami principessa’ (Spank me Daddy & call me princess). To say I had to repeat this phrase three times to this man is no exaggeration. He was in no way amused by this story. I remained entirely unaware of my horrendous mistake until a solid two hours later, when in class, he announced what his position was.
Mortifying, but hilarious.
Starring in a video on the Instagram of my local Italian hairdressers: So, when I first moved to Rome, I got a new haircut. With what little Italian I had to explain what I wanted, I was pretty pleased with how it had turned out. But something niggled at me for weeks after I had it done…
Throughout the whole haircut, my hairdressers were videoing my hair, doing trendy TikTok and Instagram transitions by placing the phone flat on my head before pressing record and pulling it back out. You know the kind. But I could never find the video. That is, until I found it about 2 weeks before I left Italy.
There is no way for me to say this without stereotyping but it is hilariously Italian. It has this intensive heavy rock music playing in the background, as my ugly and unprepared masked face is zoomed around and about for better angles and lighting. I got from ugly frog to less ugly glam rock princess with one slap to the back of my head. It has made me laugh each and every time I see it and I am ever grateful for it. https://www.instagram.com/p/CVuzacyKdlf/ – Enjoy
Found my Tribe Probably the event that is most heartwarming and fulfilling for me was meeting my Italian language friends. I’ve never been that socially savvy and upon entering into this year abroad, I had imagined I’d be spending much of my time by myself. I quite like my own company and enjoy solo adventures, but it has been delightfully different to what I had expected.
The people I have met in these short few months have warmed and cured a sad and sullen part of me that I had not quite noticed before. I have met people from all different countries, different walks of life, different religious and political views, and it has been incredible. Would you believe me if I told you that I am even close friends with a Tory?! Shocking, I know.
As lovely as it is to make new friends, it is bittersweet. As I’m staying for the whole year, I am saying goodbye to people I care deeply about a lot more than I had anticipated. The sweetness comes in knowing we will always have a couch in each other’s countries, should the other ever need a place to stay.
The MAAM Visit This visit has been on my mind ever since I walked through those metal gates into the explosion of colour and vibrant life that is MAAM. I cannot wait to return and take an even deeper look at the beautiful art on display, as well as finally actually get to speak to the community that live here about their experiences, now that my Italian is ever so slightly more conversational. It is the place I tell everyone I meet about when they first come to Rome and it is where I will be dragging every single one of my friends who come to visit in the new year.
Describing to non-Irish people various Irish traditions and phrases Asking for bizarre sayings in native languages has became my favourite way to break the ice with new language friends. I had never noticed how strangely Irish people speak until I was being called out on it on a daily basis, but we are not alone.
So far, I have struggled to explain to non-Irish people the meanings of: – ‘Would you be well?’ – What is ‘The Late Late Toy Show’ and why would I fly home just for a television show? – What is ‘Tayto Park’? Why is there a theme park about Irish mythology but also a specific brand of crisp? (See also: What is a ‘crisp’? What is a crisp sandwich? Why?) – ‘Story horse?’ (If ANYONE can tell me why we say horse, please inform me, I have left so many confused) – ‘That’s pure gas’ (See also: gas craic) – ‘My stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’ – ‘Ah, g’way with ya’ but also, ‘Now, c’mere to me.’ – ‘Madder than a box of spiders’ (Honestly, I’m not sure if this one is even a common phrase, but an ex of mine said it all the time and I cannot shake it off either. It’s got fantastic imagery)
My 2022 resolutions
Because Coronavirus has literally made life a billion times harder, I am not going to be difficult with myself about what I want to achieve this year. I wish to keep it very simple.
I will do more of what makes me happy I will say yes to more writing, meeting new people, travelling and supporting other people in their creative ventures, more dancing, more learning, more reading & more kindness.
I will be kinder to myself Nobody ever got where they wanted to go by being a raging arsehole to themselves. In 2022, I will support myself more. I will not be so annoyed that I cannot do absolutely EVERYTHING all at the one time because it is somewhat wild to think anybody can. I will take more breaks, where I am in no way productive, and work to become more comfortable doing so.
I will prioritise creativity & cultivate creative spaces If I am going to take a year out to figure what I want to do with my life, I see no better time than now to focus on what it is I am best at. Create, create, create. And surround myself with other people who love to make and craft and mind-birth things.
And that’s a wrap for real
Thank you for keeping up with me throughout the last few months! When I first started this site, I really only considered that my closest friends and family would be reading it, more to support me than out of interest. However, as of today, Tesoro Irlandese has had over 400 views from over 16 countries! It is so crazy to me. So, thank you to everyone who has liked, shared and followed along. I promise to bring you even more engaging, more personal, and hopefully more scheduled content in 2022.
I wish you all a bright, happy and hopefully Covid-free future!
Ciara Aoife O’Siorain (che desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)
A couple of weeks ago, back when I had hours and hours to wander around Rome, I went to visit the Sebastião Salgado Amazônia exhibition in the MAXXI museum. I was, of course, incredibly moved by the beauty of the photography and the power of its message. This post will not do it justice, but I hope it encourages you to look deeper into Salgado’s work.
Sebastião Salgado was born in Aimorés, Brasil in 1944. His father had hoped he would become a lawyer, but instead, Salgado chose to study economics. During his time working for the Ministry of Finance, he became involved in a movement against the military government. Considered to be a radical, he was exiled and fled to France where he continued his studies. While working in Rwanda, Salgado became interested in photography and taught himself the craft, taking his first photos here. He decided to dedicate himself to photography and became a freelance photojournalist.
His work vocalises the narratives of silenced people, from the homeless, to the oppressed, to the displaced. In his early career, he garnered attention for his famous photograph of the assassination attempt of John Hickley on Ronald Reagan. From here, he developed a particular style: creating photo series which explored a single, powerful theme. His work centres individuals from silenced minorities within larger contextual imagery but always affording the individuals with their own voice and dignity, despite their conditions. His photoseries work includes Sahel: L’homme en détresse, Other Americas, An Uncertain Grace, Workers and Terra: Struggle of the Landless. His work garnered much critical acclaim and he received many honours for his skill and vision.
Salgado’s Amazônia retains this precision of artistic vision. Shot over the course of 6 years in Brazil’s Amazonian Rainforest, Salgado captures the beauty, the power, the fragility and the vastness of the rainforest. In the MAXXI exhibition, the photographs are suspended and act almost as trees themselves, encouraging you to walk between and around them. Each suspended panel is double-sided and exhibited within separate themes, with information displayed on the walls to educate the viewer about the rainforest, its climate, its dangers, its ecosystem and, most importantly, the fragile balance that is being destroyed by deforestation. The exhibition space is dark so as to highlight the suspended photographs which stand starkly out with their backlights. As you enter, you are met with a wall of sound. What you hear are the sounds of the jungle: birds, rustlings of leaves, thunder, the roar of a waterfall. This is the phenomenal work of composer Jean-Michel Jarre.
I decided to walk the outskirts of this photo-jungle first, following the exhibition space around to the left. In this first space, past my preliminary introduction to the rainforest, I learn about the unique climate of the rainforest and just how important its balance is for the function of the world’s climate. As I continue, I come to learn about what creatures live in the rainforest, what these animals look like, how they behave, how they contribute to the wider ecosystem. Continuing forward, I meet the rivers, waterfalls, mountains and the rains of the Amazon Rainforest. It is hard to not be overwhelmed by the photos that surround you, the vastness & power of the elements, the terrifying fragility of it all.
By now, I have returned to the beginning. I go to the centre of the exhibit. This is where the exhibit focuses on the narratives of the people who live in the rainforest. In the exhibition space, there are a few enclosed circular spaces. Along the outer walls of these circles, there are pictures of individuals and pictures of communities. On each circle or semi-circle, there are photographs of different indigenous groups with an information wall describing their community, their location and their land history. The histories are comprised of the chilling pattern of government sanctioned land theft and the horrific price paid by both indigenous communities and the rainforest itself.
The portraits are powerful, linking indigenous cultures to the lands on which they have lived for aeons. Salgado manages to balance exposure with representation, with info-panels that describe how the photos were taken, where they were taken, and who each person is. This is further emphasised within the circular spaces, where a television screen occupies the very centre, displaying documentary footage of indigenous leaders speaking out against the corruption of the Brazilian government, the complicity of the global community in the genocide of their people and the importance of the rainforest for the wellbeing of the world as a whole.
They discuss how they live with the forest, not just in the forest: how they guard and protect the forest, its waters, its animals, as a place that provides for them and so, they in turn provide for it. They demand action on the part of the viewer, to not remain complicit in their communities’ annihilation, as it will herald not only their extinction but the extinction of the viewer themselves. Without communities who are willing to protect the rainforest and defend it from corrupt corporations and government greed, the rainforest will be irreparably destroyed. With the destruction of the rainforest, we will kill ourselves.
To exit the exhibition, I walk back through the suspended photos I first encountered upon entry. Looking around myself, hearing the sounds of the jungle, the echoes of the leader’s voices, it is incredibly moving how differently these photos appear. When I first entered, the bizarreness and novelty of the shapes, the sounds, the animals all fascinated me, but alienated me at the same time. I was very aware of how little connection I truly felt to this space, despite my curiosity. Leaving the exhibition, looking upon those selfsame photographs, it is hard to not feel enraged and impassioned. It is hard not to feel deeply connected when walking away because now you are so acutely aware of how your life and the lives of countless others depends on this space.
Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)
So, this week I had intended to write a blog post about the Amazonia exhibition I went to a few weeks back, however, I have instead been cooped up with the flu and feeling sorry for myself. Thankfully, it is not Covid-19, which I checked with numerous tests much to my bank account’s dismay.
However, I have had to stumble my way through speaking about what was wrong with me to numerous people, and REALLY, I should have done my homework long ago on how to talk about your health and well-being in Italian. But better late than never.
Here is a short list of phrases you may find useful should you ever need to talk to someone about your health.
Come ti senti/Come si senta? – How are you feeling (informal/formal)
Stobene – I am well
Non sto bene/Non mi sento bene – I am not well/not feeling well
Quali sono i suoi sintomi?/Chiedigli quali sono i sintomi?/che sintomi ha? – What are your symptoms?
I miei sintomi sono… – My symptoms are…
Deve riposare per qualche giorno/per due settimane – You must rest for several days/for two weeks
Descrivere i sintomi di il farmacista/ il dottore/il medico – Describe your symptoms to the pharmacist/doctor/doctor
Di quale trattamento avró bisogno? – What treatment will I need?
Prenda paracetamolo o ibuprofene – Take paracetamol and ibuprofen
Ho mal di testa – I have a headache
Ho mal di gola – I have a sore throat
Ho un naso che cola – I have a runny nose
Controlla se il mal di gola è accompagnato da rinorrea – Notice if the sore throat is accompanied by a runny nose
Ho la diarrhea – I have diarrhoea
Sto cominiciando ad avere un po’ di nausea – I am beginning to feel a bit nauseous
Ho un infezione del tratto urinario – I have a UTI
Ho un’infezione pulmonare – I have a chest infection
Ho un’infezione respiratoria – I have a respiratory infection
Ho un’infezione agli occhi – I have an eye infection
Ho un’infezione dell’orecchio/un’otite – I have an ear infection
Mi sento un po’ la nausea – I feel a little nauseous
Il dolore di stomaco – The stomach pain
Posso comprare paracetamolo/i testi Covid-19/antigenico qui? – Can I buy paracetamol/Covid-19/antigen tests here?
La testa – head
Il petto/Il torace – chest
Il collo – neck
Le spalle – shoulders : La spalla – shoulder
Le bracci – arms : Il braccio – arm
Le mani – hands : La mano – hand
Il dito – a finger: Le dita – fingers
Il stomaco – stomach
L’utero/Il grembo – womb
Le orecchie – the ears : Il orecchio – ear
Il naso – nose
Il viso – face
Gli occhi – eyes : L’occhio – eye
La bocca – mouth
I piedi – feet : il piede – foot
Le gambe – legs : La gamba – leg
Things you might want to ask:
Quanto verrà a costare? – How much will this cost?
Ora dove vado? – Where do I go now?
Vorrei fissare un appuntamento. – I would like to make an appointment
Posso ricevere la ricevuta via e-mail? – May I receive the receipt by email?
Tra quanto potrò tornare al lavoro? – How long until I can return to work?
Il virus è contagioso? – The virus is contagious?
I hope this short list of phrases serves you well as you fight off any illnesses that may occur on Italian soil.
I am currently just thanking my lucky stars that I am not Covid-19 positive and do NOT have to be that b*t*h who infected her whole class lol that would be so awfully embarrassing, let alone terrifying. Instead, I am sipping a tonne of hot honey and lemon tea (thé al limone e miele) and trying to catch up on the Italian lessons I have missed.
Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)