Festival della Vagina Felice

For the last few weeks, I have felt wildly overwhelmed by life. Between finishing up at my language school, falling sick a bajillion times, working away, and trying to juggle my 3874 hobbies and interests, I just couldn’t find time to sit down and write. Also, when it came to TI, I was feeling a bit uninspired. That is, until Sunday, September 25th, when I waltzed my way over to the Festival of the Happy Vagina at LOA ACROBAX.

Centre of image foreground stretching to the background is a gravel path. At the end of the path, the entrance to LOA Acrobax can be seen, with the old dog track sign barely visible to the right, reading Cino (the 'dromo' is obscured) To the left of the path is a car park full of cars and in the left  background behind the car park is a colourful part of the Acrobax building, painted with blue, pink and yellow. Above reads an old sign 'corse di livrieri' translating  to 'greyhound course racing'.
Photo of LOA Acrobax, taken as I was walking up

Festival of the Happy Vagina or Festival della Vagina Felice

In its first year, the Festival of the Happy Vagina was held over two days this past weekend, 24th and 25th of September, and hosted some absolutely fascinating events. Sadly, I missed the Saturday (I was, yet again sick) but saddled myself up for the full day on Sunday. The festival celebrated open discussions about sex, sexuality, self-love, self-acceptance, community, activism and of course, the power of the vagina and of feminine power.

Photo depicting the inside canteen space of Acrobax. The walls are covered in graffiti art and the bar car be seen to the far right of the photo. In the centre stands a sound and lights area (I believe) and in the background to the right there is a central discussion taking place, with people gathered around, either seated or standing listening to the main speaker. Two lovely legends I met on the day stand in the mid ground to the right, chatting to each other.
Inside the canteen and performance space of Acrobax

Acrobax

For those unfamiliar with Acrobax, or many of the similar CSOA spaces in Rome, I will try my best to explain. CSOA spaces develop in abandoned buildings by pure community spirit and hard work, preserving historically significant buildings and providing a safe space for those who need it. Coming from Dublin where the housing crisis has coloured most of my teenage and adult life, these spaces are a breath of fresh air. Acrobax began in the year 2002, where the people took back an abandoned dog racing track (ex-Cinodromo) and turned it into a fully-functioning community space, complete with bathrooms, discussion rooms, a community garden, a gym, a huge track field, spectator seats, a gigantic professional stage, a spacious bar and canteen area and even an outside kitchen complete with a pizza oven. The space of Acrobax itself is inspiring, let alone the atmosphere of pure warmth and acceptance that characterised the festival taking place within its walls. The festival aims echoed the very motto of the space itself: to construct a capacity for fantasy and for revolution.

In this photo, the mini-garden space can be seen along with a few families and people gathered at the picnic benches lining the right hand side
Outdoor playground space at LOA Acrobax

Polyamory 101

My first event of the day was to attend a presentation on Polyamory, teasingly named ‘Poliamore Lesson N.1’. The aims of the presentation were to clear up any misconceptions about what polyamory is, how polyamory differs from monogamy, the ties of monogamy to patriarchal control and what that means for polyamorous people and poliactivists, where polyamory fits into the Queer umbrella, and much more. I say much more, because about half way through the presentation, I got completely distracted by two very adorable dogs who took up 70% of my attention.

Of course, all of the events were in Italian, so even though I know my level of Italian is actually quite good by now and I understand 95% of what is said, I was still too embarrassed by how many grammar mistakes I make while speaking to ask any questions in front of the crowd. However, there were some really fascinating arguments, questions and discussions during the Q&A section about the ethics of polyamory and what discrimination may look like to someone who is polyamorous.

This photo shows a poster that was made during an earlier workshop. It is in italian, but roughly translated it asks what nurtures a happy vagina? People have placed sticky notes on the poster with various answers, such as lubrificcation, communication, body positivity, hygiene, care and free choice.
Poster from the festival of the happy vagina, asking what nurtures a happy vagina?

Next, I grabbed some lunch – Pasta of the Happy Vagina (otherwise known as all’amatriciana). It was delicious. I chatted away to a few people and took a phone call from a darling friend who recounted the dramas of the week to me while I gleefully munched through my pasta. So distracted, that I almost missed out on getting a seat for the next event of my day: Be Kinky.

Be Kinky by Dr. Andrea Farolfi

Now, now. It was a book presentation, I shall have you all know. I am a literature scholar after all. Authored by Dr. Andrea Farolfi, Be Kinky is a sex-positive book that is perfect for all, regardless of sexual orientation, sexual experiences, sexual preferences or gender. The onus is on arming the reader with the skills and knowledge to satisfy themselves and their partners, but moreover, to promote a healthy, positive view of sex and sexuality.

Dr. Farolfi presented the book, taking us through the background for what inspired the book, what his experience was of kinks before (Farolfi is a consultant sexologist professionally, just FYI) and after writing the text and also to open a discussion about the taboos surrounding certain sexual practices. He responded to questions about how popular discourse surrounding sex, and kinks more specifically, can be as damaging as freeing as well as how power dynamics within relationships can be better understood and defined. We also played a delightfully fun game where we were given a card with a kink concept (e.g. role-play) and had to describe this concept without using the most obvious words. As he so greatly put it, sex is supposed to be FUN so this game felt very fitting. It really brought the kinksters out of the woodwork and gave us all a great way to close the presentation on a happy, connected note.

Acrobax: Take Two

Next, I had an hour to kill before the next event I had signed up for. I decided I was going to explore the entire complex of Acrobax. Enjoy the absolute HEAP of photos I took while wandering around.

What I loved most about this little adventure was that it gave me the opportunity to see the space as a lived-in and well-loved place. After stumbling upon a hidden art exhibition of the erotic body, I followed the path on the grass to find a small community garden growing vegetables as well as chickens living happily in the back safe-space near the racing stands. It feels like a breath of fresh air forward to the way we must consider changing our living conditions in order to become self-sustainable and more deeply rooted in community, looking at the crises that approach us.

Cos’è il sesso? written by D’Onofrio, Montanaro & ills. by Montalto

Now, the event that I was most looking forward to as a Master in Children’s Literature scholar… the picturebook presentation of ‘Cos’è il sesso?’ or ‘What is sex?’ Authored by Francesca D’Onofrio and Silvio Montanaro and illustrated by Luisa Montalto, this newly-released picture book for children explains exactly what sex is, but for younger readers.

I was curious to see how the presentation would be carried out for such a young audience (my fellow presentation-goers ranged in age between 2-55 years of age) and how the authors and illustrator would handle difficult questions. I had, originally, thought the book would be quite vague about sex, thinking back to the children’s books I had growing up in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that dared to talk about sex. I was completely wrong. I had also underestimated the younger generation’s knowledge and pure coolness about the whole thing.

Photo shows presentation screen for the book 'What is sex'. On the presentation screen, the front cover of the text is visible. Front cover depicts 5 illustrated children and teenagers who have various appearances, hobbies and expressions. Below the children are the words 'cos'è il sesso?' or what is sex in Italian.
Opening of presentation on book

Throughout the presentation, the children were actively encouraged to share what they knew, to ask questions and ask for clarifications if things still weren’t clear. We were given many different tasks to follow, such as pinning a sticky-note to a figure of a human and deciding where is a nice place to be caressed and where is not a nice place, and, what we think the different genitals of the different sexes look like. It was informative, matter-of-fact, but also very fun for everyone.

After we had followed through puberty, and being attracted to another person, and what one way of having sex looks like, we were asked to draw what our idea of pleasure looks like. For the children, this direction was to draw whatever emotions they feel when they feel happiness or pleasure. For the adults, we were instructed to draw an orgasm. I diligently got to work and began drawing. I shared my table with an eccentric legendary-rockstar-looking person who was also engrossed in their drawing. When I had finished, I snook a peak at their drawing and laughed. We had drawn almost identical abstract images of comets rocketing through space. Right down to the colours we had chosen and the spacing on the page. We shared a lovely moment chatting through our lives and where we had come from while we waited for the others to finish up their drawings. Overall, I was incredibly impressed by D’Onofrio, Montanaro and Montalto for their handling of the event, how they focused the lens, and for how engaging they made the subject.

My tragically poor attempt to draw a comet. Truly can't bring myself to describe this one, just trust me that it is very ugly and now that I look at it, the way I've drawn the 'shooting' part of the comet looks like a vagina itself... interesting...
My terrible drawing skills illustrated: I give you ‘Pleasure Comet’ (2022) on paper x children’s colouring pencils

For the next two hours between the picturebook event and the night-time performance by the one and only Kinky Girls (you may remember I saw them perform last at San Lorenzo Pride which you can read about here), I wandered about and made some friends with those who were also hanging about between events. Having lived in Rome for almost a year now, I had begun to really miss the warmth of Irish people. Romans are a very welcoming bunch, but there was a sense of belonging and actual friendship that I was missing. Rome had begun to feel quite cold in a lot of ways (though waking up this morning to see the far-right government that has taken power… you could say I’m feeling pretty cold for all of Italy right now) However, the people I met at this event truly changed my picture of how the Romans are with strangers and foreigners. Despite my dodgy Italian, I was welcomed and encouraged to join into discussions. One photographer who I had glanced before during the earlier events took my photograph and we ended up chatting along with another lovely lady I hadn’t met yet. Time flew by and before I knew it, it was almost time for the Kinky Girls performance.

If you have never seen a Kinky Girls performance, I urge you to come to Italy and see for yourself how inspiring and energising these women are. The Kinky Girls are a collective of women (Cis, Trans and Queer-identifying) who host play-parties and hangouts, fostering a community of feminine power, sensuality and support that is otherwise basically absent from the classic social structure. As they explained in their Aftershow Q&A, what they do is not about kink for kink’s sake. It is about liberation and engagement; about acceptance of your body, your identity and self-love; it is about community and belonging. Within the collective, the members are exclusively women or woman-identifying in some respect. This was raised during the Q&A, as the idea of ‘woman-only’ can be quite exclusive towards non-binary people otherwise interested in joining the collective. The Kinky Girls further explained, as they see it, anyone who has experienced feminine conditioning and/or favours femininity and feminine power in their chosen identity are more than welcome.

The performance itself was powerful. Three of the collective performed, with two taking Mistress positions in the power dynamic with one taking the Submissive position. The performance moved between wax-play, flogging, rope-restriction and sensory play with blindfolds, fabrics, and movements of the hands. The images that would come to mind for any of these words for a random person on the street usually come from a place of the modern porn industry, one rampant with violence, abuse of personal boundaries, unhealthy dynamics and very little inter-party communication. Instead, the performance was rich with tender moments between play-partners, checking in before, during and after, as well as showing affection and tenderness towards each other throughout the performance. Again, as I had felt the very first time I saw the Kinky Girls perform, I felt moved by the connections and authentic care that existed between all on stage and off stage in the collective.

Photo depicts the Acrobax Stage with one of the Kinky Girls collective seated to the right hand side of the stage,scrolling through her phone. There are two wax candles lit on the table before her and various pieces of rope. She is dressed in black dominatrix attire as she is the Principle Mistress of the performance to come. Dangling from the rafters of the stage, a bright red rope with a ball of more rope at its end, to be used to suspend performers later in the show.
Awaiting the performance of Kinky Girls to begin

After the performance, I legged it to catch my bus home, buzzing after the events of the day. I felt I had finally broken my summer curse of having done nothing in particular to develop my world-view or expand my lens on the experiences of others and of myself. Let’s hope I can stay on the roll! Otherwise, you’ll hear from me again in another two months.

Alla prossima,
Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin

Sources and bits:

Be Kinky

Cos’è il sesso?

Kinky Girls Instagram

Kinky Girls Facebook: Girls of Kinky

Summer-Time and the Living is Easy…ish

Hello again! As per usual, I have been swept away in the last month with the usual Roman craziness. I have been finishing up my scuola di lingua course, working, finishing my TEFL course, adventuring, hosting wonderful friends, saying goodbye to some and making new ones. I really do not know where il tempo goes anymore. However, I am back to fill you in on my mese and share some exciting news.

Despite the title, this month has been probably the most hectic month I’ve had so far in Rome. Knowing I want to vivere qui for maybe another year or two more, I have been on the endless, mind-numbing job search since May. I have been working over the last two weeks, training into two different lavori and having an absolute ball meeting so many new people. I am one of the lucky ones in so far as I have secured a position beginning this settembre 2022. So expect more irregular TI content for the foreseeable! As it has been so iconically said before… I’M NOT LEAVING!

(Here is a little snippet of adventure to inspire you to come to Rome.)

Adventuring around the Ancient Roman Aqueducts

So, la scorsa settimana, my best friend from home came to Rome for one whole settimana to visit me. It was the fastest and most fun week of my life. Having known each other for just over half of our lives now, it was so lovely to be in his company; in the company of someone who puts you at ease with a laugh.

As we would usually do, even in Dublin, we spent the week adventuring and trying cose nuove. First, I toured him around all of the Ancient Roman sites, producing a solid 45-minuti monologue about the Roman Imperial Period that would challenge Love Island in its spicy drama (God bless that poor man’s ears lol)…

We met some new amici, adventured out to watch the tramonte at a beach festa, ate a whole lot of supplì and Italian pastries at all hours of the day and notte, and celebrated a birthday on Gianicolo Hill…

I was delighted to have another surprisa: una delle mie amiche from Switzerland came to visit me for the weekend at the very last minute. We went out and relived our glory days from when we both lived in Rome. It was so lovely to have two cari staying and hanging out together. On the Friday night, we headed out to a tatuaggio and art event out in Tevere Art Gallery. There are always the most fantastic events on here and I love the atmosphere every time. Cool people, cheap drinks, ground-breaking art exhibitions: they’re always top-tier. At the event, there was the opportunity to get flash tattoos from some of the exhibited artists… Well… of course we had to take the opportunity and get matching tattoos…

The last few days have went by in a blur. I was training into my new job, finally returning to my school for the final month of my language course and perhaps falling a little too quickly head over heels… but more on that on my next post… 😉

I hope you’ve all been enjoying your summer and taking care of yourself during this heatwave. I love hearing your feedback on my posts and hearing you share your stories with me on my social feeds and DMs!

To another year of Roman nonsense artistry…

Alla prossima,

Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella-donna come le italiane)

Gay Pride Month in Rome: What’s been going on

Finalmente, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us: Gay Pride Month. For this blogpost, I’ll give you the rundown on what I’ve been up to & where and who to follow for more LGBTQIA+ events if you’re ever in the Eternal(ly Fabulous) City.

Pride in Roma 2022

To my absolutely joy, I got the chance to attend incredible events held by both the state-backed and more conventionally popular Roma Pride and by San Lorenzo Pride during Pride Week, which began on June 2nd and ran until June 10th, with the largest event of the Pride Parade taking place on Saturday June 11th.

Roma Pride had a line-up of events to die for: political panels, workshops, drag performances, talks with artists, authors, activists and performers, stand-up comedy, theatrical performances, talk-shows and competitions. Roma Pride really has it all.

Being a busy bee, I sadly did not get to attend every event, however there was one I knew I absolutely could not miss: Waackengaged e Voguengaged, hosted by VogueXchange.

Hosted by Roma Pride in the Gardens of the Baths of Trajan in the centre of Rome, this event brought together troupes of talented performers to compete. The history of Waacking and Vogue dancing is integral to the modern gay cultural scene and this event paid homage to its predecessors by hosting the competition as a freestyle one-on-one dance battle. It was truly jaw dropping. The musicality, originality of movement and personality that was brought by each performer had the entire audience mesmerised.

I’ve left you a couple of photos and videos that do NOT do justice to how the energy in that room felt. Incredible. I left feeling energised and also HUMBLED to the floor, motivated to learn how to dance with more fluidity and connection.

VogueXchange & Roma Pride

On June 8th, I made my merry way to San Lorenzo, to Degender Communia, for a San Lorenzo Pride event: Kinky Girls performance and after-talk. Kinky Girls are an all-queer women collective who create open spaces for creativity, exploration and dialogue around sex, kinks and BDSM. They host events all around Italy which invite cis, trans and queer women exclusively to participate and to build community together.

I was unsure, if I am honest, about how I would feel in this space. Despite my free-living and open minded nature, I am an Irish Catholic girl – born and raised. A part of me felt quite nervous about my presence in this space, especially going alone. However, I needn’t have worried. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and there was a gentle buzz as the audience took their seats and settled in for the performance.

It was incredibly moving. Two separate couples took to the stage: one couple demonstrating silently sensuality play and communication between partners; the other demonstrating rope play and the intimacy and gentleness that can be involved. It was really not what I was expecting. I truly felt moved by watching the performance. What stood out to me most was how much warmth and connection could be felt, even as a member of the audience.

After the performance, The Kinky Girls group took to the front of the stage and spoke about their mission. The whole event was, of course, in Italian, and I felt particularly pleased that I could understand a solid 90% of what was said. Touching upon what I had experienced as an audience member, they described how they wanted to create a space where Kink was taken away from the taint of the porn industry and the male-gaze, creating instead a space of softness, communication, care and mutual respect throughout the kink engagement for all involved parties. What resulted is a more intimate, connected experience, one that they felt it was important to promote, rallying against ideas that kink must always be shameful and degrading.

They discussed their place in the San Lorenzo pride, noting that for many people, and even for the performers themselves, to be forcibly outed as a ‘kinkster’ often has sinister social and personal repercussions. One recalls how she was alienated within her workplace once knowledge of her performances became known to her colleagues, a social exclusion process that shares similarities to that of the Queer community in being forcibly ‘outed’. They also remarked on the alternative nature of San Lorenzo Pride, an organisation which seeks to voice diverse experiences of Queerness, not only what has become commercially marketable to Queer and straight audiences alike.

After a few remarks from the audience, most of which were to thank the Kinky Girls for all that they had done in creating a wider, supportive, more open community within Italy, the show wrapped up with a music and drinks reception. I, however, took my leave to continue working away on work portfolios. A VERY different kind of energy lol.

And then there was, last but not least, Roma Pride Parade on Saturday June 11th. Admittedly, I didn’t get too much involved as I had family come to visit me that weekend and decided to give them my full attention. However, we jumped onto the Parade as it came through Via Sacra from the Colosseo to Piazza Venezia for the final stretch.

To see such a huge crowd of people partying, singing and dancing with each other was soul-lifting. I don’t know how anybody can hate on Pride Parades. It’s literally a contagious energy of happiness, excitement and hopefulness. What is there not to like? There were huge party trucks carrying Italian and Roman celebrities, influencers, Queer activists and public figures, while all around them people were dancing and singing along to the loudspeaker pop tunes. Honestly, just delightful to watch.

Signing off…

So that’s all the adventuring I’ve managed to get in to my Pride Week in Rome. However, I plan to keep engaging and discovering more Queer and/or alternative spaces and organisations throughout this month and beyond, so keep an eye on my list below for The Ones to Watch!

And di nuovo, I am SORRY for my radio silence. Life here in Rome has been busy with exams, work, and saying goodbye to treasured friends. Honestly, the saying goodbye has really knocked the emotional wind out of me and getting back down to writing this week has only happened by the sheer boredom of catching Covid-19 AGAIN. However, I’ve had this post raring to go for a solid week now and finally have the time to sit down and finish it off.

Alla prossima,

Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)

LGBTQ+/Queer Organisations & Businesses in Rome/Italy to follow!

San Lorenzo Pride Facebook Page

VogueXchangeIT Facebook Page

Libreria Antigone Roma

MuccAssassina

GIAM Roma

Girls of Kinky

Degender Communia

Libreria Tuba

My Bar

Coming Out Bar

Broke in Rome

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)

Pigneto:

  • 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)
  • 999 Contemporary
  • Isiderio Murales
  • 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.
Sure look, it’s myself at the Villa Torlonia
  • 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.
The park of the Aqueducts. Aqueducts visible in the background whereas the foreground displays a regular Easter Monday in Rome park scene.
  • 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.
My friends and I in the Borghese Gardens. I have hidden their identities to protect them from all 7 of my readers lol.

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.

The Pantheon

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.

The Pantheon and it’s usual never-ending queue.
Saint Peter’s

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.

It’s myself again, wandering through the Holy Place

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)

The Price of Politeness

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 il minimo indispensabile. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. (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.
  4. Trust your gut and not your eyes. Oops…

Alla prossima,
Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Amare e Essere Amati or To Love and To Be Loved

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 più possibile 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.

Alla prossima,

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!


Rome and Queer History: The 1850’s Lesbian Art Commune on the Hills

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.

Charlotte Cushman and Rome
Charlotte Cushman. ca. 1855. Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZC4-13410

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.

Matilda Hays and Charlotte Cushman. Open Access

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…

A House of ‘Jolly Bachelor Women‘: Cushman, Hays, Hosmer & Stebbins and the ‘White, Marmorean Flock

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.

Charlotte Cushman, J. Paul Getty Museum, Open Access

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.

Stibben’s “Angel of the Waters” (1873)… Image by John Wisniewski

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.

Conclusions:

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…

Alla prossima,

Ciara O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Sources:

https://americanart.si.edu/artist/harriet-hosmer-2314

http://www.elisarolle.com/queerplaces/klmno/Matilda%20Hays.html

https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/27

https://www.archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/373

http://www.elisarolle.com/queerplaces/ch-d-e/Emma%20Stebbins.html

https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/caption/captioncushman.html

https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2012/04/charlotte-cushman.html

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charlotte-Saunders-Cushman

Stavo Cazzeggiando!

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.

First up, Verano Monumental Cemetery

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.

Verano Monumental Cemetery San Lorenzo District of Rome
The cemetery’s first impression and my friend Emma’s bag

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.

Here is a statue of Jesus, which I WAS informed about by aforementioned Ben, and yet, I remember nothing.

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.

Origami and Termini Station

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.

Romeow Cat Bistro & the fluffiest baby I have ever laid eyes on

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 …

Quartiere Coppedè

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 un luogo 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.

Palazzo Massimo & Why I am an awful influence

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…

Porta Portese Market, Coming Out Bar & Blackmarket Hall

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.

Alla prossima,

Ciara Aoife O’Síoráin (che desidera diventare una bella donna figa come gli italiani)

‘diventare uno con me stessa’

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)