2021: Wrapped Up

Well, it’s been one hell of a year.

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.

On my way to get my nose impulsively pierced somewhere around Pigneto, December 2021

Without further ado, N. 1

  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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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)
Pyramide, November 2021, Taking the long way to dinner with friends in Cavour after a self led street art walking tour

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
Piazza Venezia, December 2021, Walking to my bus stop home after hanging with friends around the Vatican

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!

Walking around the Tiber after visiting Isola Tiberina with friends, December 2021. NB: This is NOT a full-day trip as we had hoped lol

Alla prossima,

Ciara Aoife O’Siorain (che desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Photo graphic evidence that we did make it to Isola Tiberina but that I also cannot behave myself like an adult for more than 3 pictures in a row. Faces turnt up for Anonymity’s Sake.

Sebastião Salgado’s ‘Amazônia’ Exhibition

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.

Let’s begin:

Sebastião Salgado

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

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.

Alla prossima,

Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)







Your Health is Your Wealth or La Vostra Salute è il Vostro Possesso più Stimato

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.

General phrases:

Come ti senti/Come si senta? – How are you feeling (informal/formal)

Sto bene – 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?

Body parts:

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.

Alla prossima,

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

MAAM: Il Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz or The Museum of the Other & the Elsewhere

For all solid 30 of you who read my blog, you may have noticed my quiet absence over the past two weeks. This is not because I am sick of writing, but more because there is so much to tell you and I haven’t had a moment because I just keep going out and adventuring… Oops! For proof, here is a picture of me in Amsterdam from this weekend.

For the last few weeks, I have been on a HOT mission to find cool spaces and places in Rome, some that maybe are not always a tourist’s first port of call but are most definitely worth a visit. I have also been curious to hit up as many of the contemporary artist exhibitions before their time in display closes, so I PROMISE I will write up these posts ASAP.

But first, to christen this Eterna Alternatività page, I must write about my visit to the MAAM, or the Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere. It is a space like no other, with an atmosphere that really brings its visitors to life.

MAAM: The Museum of the Other & the Elsewhere entrance

For those who are unaware, like I was a solid week ago, of what the MAAM is, in short, it is a museum and a residence. The residence of this abandoned industrial slaughterhouse began in 2009, when a group of people from a wide array of cultural backgrounds who needed a place to call home came to this slaughterhouse for shelter. In order to avoid eviction by State police, as their occupation of the unused building would be considered illegal, the people who resided there came up with an ingenious way to ensure their home would not be destroyed; they made it an art museum. These people called this place their home, Metropoliz, and themselves, ‘Metropolizians’. Within the Metropoliz, MAAM was born.

In order to create MAAM, artists were invited to work on their art on the walls, floors and ceilings of the building. By creating art on the building itself, the inhabitants and artists ensured that the police could not destroy the building. According to Carlo Gori, a citizen of Metropoliz, in speaking to Romeing, some of the walls in the MAAM are valued at over €150,000! (If you would like to read more about the specific art that the MAAM has on offer, please click THIS link)

However, state-forced eviction is not the only hurdle they have faced. The Metropolizians had to work from scratch to create a space that was inhabitable and suitable for the many families that live within the Metropoliz, including 70 children. Building from nothing, they have created a shared community space that is functional and entirely unique.

I first heard about MAAM while researching alternative spaces in Rome. I was saddened to find that, often in Rome, when there is a subversion of the dominant ideology or the sounding of alternative voices, there is soon after a state closure of these spaces, such as the Ex Dogana and DalVerme. I wanted to find a way to support the less straight forward side of Rome, the part that does not reflect the sunshine off of its ancient marble or glint golden with flashy brands in fine, historically important buildings. While searching for these spaces, I came across this Romeing.it article about MAAM and I knew I had to go.

Metropoliz: The MAAM tour

The Metropoliz site is pretty far from where I live: a solid hour or so journey there and another to return home. I hilariously enough decided to go to the MAAM on a Saturday, after inviting a random traveller I met on the internet to join me on an adventure. And BOY did we have an adventure.

I was early, so I managed to jump into an Italian tour group that were being guided through the museum site. My Italian is pretty low standard, so I managed to understand a solid 10% of what was said. Thank GOD for the internet, as I had done some of my own research myself before coming.

MAAM tour: Ground floor

I followed the tour group through the initial first few rooms, marvelling along with the crowd at the school/education rooms. As you ascend the stairs, you will read the words MIGRANT FOR LIFE. Next, you encounter a whale made entirely out of fishing net and plastic bottles.

A Plastic Whale in the MAAM

This playroom was where the first art works were created for the MAAM and it is where the children who live in the Metropoliz do their homework and learn. It is a beautiful space, one that really has given itself artistically to the child and to play. There is also something very accusatory about the art in this space; something that calls you out for your voyeur-ness.

This is further emphasised in the room below the schoolroom. In this windowless, dark space, you will find a statue of the Virgin in the middle of the floor. On the walls surrounding her are four different works of art that explore and interrogate notions of national identity, refugee treatment and the dangers of apathy/intolerance. Particularly moving are the bird cages painted onto the far wall from the entrance.

My tragically poor quality attempt to capture this room. I apologise profusely, but it is more reason to go see for yourself!

At this point, my new adventure buddy had arrived so I went back out to the central courtyard to find them. We wandered about through the many spaces of the MAAM, marvelling at the courtyard moon, playing with the viewing options of the ‘because I am a dreamer’ skylight piece and awkwardly shuffling and considering the effective horror of the migrant boat with skeletal remains as a passenger, with a trail of similar human-like bones in its wake.

We also sat for a drink in the cafeteria where even more art work abounds. We spoke about where we grew up, what we were doing with our lives (read: panicking), what we thought of all we saw. It was a really comfortable space, especially as there are large spaces between tables so it was incredibly COVID-19 friendly.

After a small break, we wandered through deeper, into the more industrial parts of the MAAM, walking along the mural of pigs, where they are shown coming back from slaughter. I loitered about while my adventure buddy used the bathrooms and chatted to the children who were playing on the seesaw. They were not impressed with my bad Italian but they were very amused by the sound of me speaking Irish to them. After realising I was an altogether very boring and candy-less person altogether, they headed back to play together on the seesaw again.

The MAAM: La cappella porcina – eMAAMcipazione, by Pablo Mesa Capella and Gonzalo Orquín. 

The beauty of this space, I found myself thinking as I wandered around, was just how united it is. How everyone who was on the job in the canteen were truly working together as a team. How well the art and the music that was performed in the courtyard gelled together to remind you of the humanity of all people, regardless of where they are from or where they live. There is something beautifully fiery in the air at the MAAM. Something that lights a part of yourself that is truly all-soul, all human.

If you’d like to visit the Metropoliz and see the MAAM for yourself, they are open from 10.30am – 17.00pm Saturdays. You can check out their Facebook page for more information and for their latest news. Like their page and show them some support! At 11am, they have a guided tour (which is the one I jumped in on) and it is entirely a free tour. To enter the MAAM, you will pay a €5 donation. It is hardly a harsh price for the uniqueness and incredible works that you are to see here. On their Facebook page & indeed, in person on the tour, the inhabitants remind you of their mission and their ethos. That the Metropoliz is a space outside of acknowledged spaces. It is a new way of communal living, where private property and weapons are prohibited. It is a place where artists can donate their time to create artworks and interact meaningfully with the space, its inhabitants and its message.

They sum up the importance of the symbiosis between their Metropoliz home and the art that covers its walls, saying on their Facebook: (Google has so kindly translated this for me)
“By beginning a new, virtuous relationship between the art and the city, between art and life, the Metropoliz is equipped with a precious layer/cover, a collection which helps to protect it forever from the ever-looming threat of forced eviction.”

I have decided to include my sources list above my sign off, in the hopes it will further encourage you to look into this incredible initiative and support their mission.









Alla prossima, 

Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Julie d’Aubigny: How to Do Whatever the Hell You Want & Do it Well

I have always been the moody and broody type.

I wish it weren’t true, but I think it’s part and parcel of being an “artist”. If I weren’t moody, I would have no music to write, no reason to run out adventuring, no deep thoughts to sit up writing about on the balcony in the middle of the night. It’s all part of the game.

One particular favourite circle-thought I LOVE to torture myself with when I have really nothing better to do is the notion of dying before I have been able to do something worthwhile with my life. I blame entirely my obsession with great historical figures on this particular circle-thought. The more I learn about fascinating, noteworthy historical figures, the more fuel is added to the fire that I want to be as courageous/self-assured/bold/intelligent/insert-any-extraordinary-adjective-here.

However, this week, after a solid week of learning about Catherine the Great and every Julio-Claudian Emperor of Rome, I have been voraciously learning everything I can about Julie d’Aubigny, and I have had a sudden change in swing.

By Jean Béraud – Own work, Public Domain, WikiCommons

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely still would love to be as courageous, skilled and just downright insane as she was. But I have had this notion in my head that to achieve something worthwhile and great, I must focus all my attentions on it and know from the start exactly what I want to achieve. That, with the doggedness of Hannibal crossing the Alps, I must devote myself solely in one direction and strive for it with all my might to defeat all the odds and obstacles stacked against me.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is an almost impossible feat. I am a woman who has 2884 hobbies, a couple of side-projects, a few part-time and freelance jobs, and is on the never ending hunt for new ideas to become involved in. To focus on one thing? To be passionate about only ONE thing? I don’t even know how to begin.

Enter Julie d’Aubigny:
Not only is she a queer legend and a genius, but she was also a woman with many, many talents and skills; skills she honed and crafted over her entire (short) lifetime. From her beautiful singing voice, to her skills with a sword, to horseback riding, seduction, oratory – you name it, Julie could probably figure it out and master it.

If you have not heard of La Maupin, I urge you to go look her up. She is absolutely fascinating. One of my favourite tales of her life goes roughly like this:

By G CHP, CC BY-SA 2.5, WikiCommons

One night, La Maupin is invited to a ball. While there, she flirts with a desirable, single woman and they kiss publicly. The three suitors who were courting the young woman are enraged and threaten Julie, telling her she must leave immediately. Instead, Julie challenges them to a duel outside.

These duels had become illegal because they meant the people were handling matters themselves and not deferring to the Law or the King & also because they were, obviously, very, very dangerous. Unbeknownst to the three suitors, Julie spent her life training by the sword in the court of King Louis XIV. She defeated all three suitors, and unscathed, returned to the party, coyly informing others that there were three men who needed medical attention.

‘King Louis XIV’ by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

This was not the first time Julie had fought and won by the sword against men. However, her antics must have entertained the King somewhat, for he pardoned her on many, many counts of what could be considered assault, murder, and even an arson.
She was an absolute legend.

What I love most about her life story (well, perhaps how it has been told throughout the centuries) is that Julie had no grand schemes for power or office. She was not looking to become queen of anywhere nor did she have a dogged ‘greater purpose’ that has been carried through legends of her life. If anything, her greatest scheme was to pull some strings to get into the Paris Opera while there was a death warrant out for her, which she did, as with all of her greatest acts, by seducing, charming or by falling in love. Iconic.

By Jean Béraud – Own work, Public Domain, WikiCommons

La Maupin gives hope to all Jack-of-All-Trades types that to be flexible, to be multi-faceted and to be driven solely in the direction of what is best for you, right then, right there, can in itself lead to an extraordinary life. Without her many skills and talents, Mademoiselle Maupin would not have been able to provide herself with so many opportunities, would not have been able to travel so widely as a woman at the time, and would not have been able to defeat a bunch of pompous, entitled men at their own game.

Moreover, she gives me hope that to do something extraordinary with one’s life is not always about what you actually do, but how you do it.

As she is said to have herself wrote: ‘I am made for perils, as well as for tenderness.’

Alla prossima,
Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Galleria Borghese & Damien Hirst

I have been a busy, busy bee this week, hence the late post! But my best friend came to visit me and we have been VERY busy adventuring all over Rome and discovering many beauties to share with you here. Today, I want to talk about the Galleria Borghese & the Damien Hirst ‘Archaeology Now’ exhibition that is being housed here.

Without further ado, here we go!

The Villa Borghese & Borghese Gardens

Coming from Siena, the Borghese family quickly ascended the Roman ranks, with their ascension culminating in the election of Pope Paul V. The pope’s nephew was a prominent man of his own right, moving up the church ranks to become Cardinal Scipione Borghese. However, the Pope had one condition: Build Rome a grand and beautiful place. ‘No problem,’ said the Cardinal.

‘Villa Borghese’ by Ana Rey on Flickr

The construction of the Villa Borghese was entrusted to Flaminio Ponzo, and later, to Girolamo Rainaldi and was completed in 1633. The construction of the Villa began an era of public renovation works and Cardinal Scipione Borghese amassed a huge amount of fine art and precious artworks, which make up some of the most valuable parts of the collection on display today. On display are paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Corregio and sculptures by Bernini.

The Borghese Gardens have been described as “the green lung” of Rome and are a popular place for all kinds of people to enjoy a sunny afternoon. Stretching out before the Villa Borghese, these gardens were once a vineyard that was radically transformed to become a beautiful, masterfully shaped park. In the 19th century, the park was expanded to include further lands and redesigned to the naturalistic English style. In the early 20th century, the Italian state took over the park and opened it fully to public use.

Damien Hirst & ‘Archaeology Now’

A brief word on Damien Hirst:

Born in 1965 and coming to prominence in the late 1980’s, Damien Hirst is one of the most controversial & fascinating artists to emerge from the UK art scene. Even from his early exhibitions in Goldsmith, where he studied until 1989, his work was striking and interrogated many complex and difficult themes, such as death, fragility and, more recently, in his exhibition, ‘Cherry Blossoms’, he toys with the subjects of traditional landscape paintings. One of his most well-known works from this early career period was ‘Natural History’, where decomposing animals were preserved in formaldehyde solution in glass and steel tanks.

With much support from Prada, the Borghese Gallery & Damien Hirst presents ‘Archaeology Now’, which features much of his work from ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’. In this exhibition, Hirst goes beyond expectations, using a wealth of different materials and inspirations, both mythical and imaginary, to create an exhibition which is truly thought provoking.

I have a couple of favourites from this exhibition, but I particularly love ‘The Severed Head of Medusa’. To be found amongst a smattering of famous Caravaggio paintings are three severed heads of Medusa, all made with different materials, and so, to different affect.

As an avid lover of Medusean imagery and myth, these were breathtaking.

Close on their heels to be my favourite is the much renowned ‘Hydra and Kali’. You can see why. It is quite a shock to the system to wander out from a highly adorned room into a pristine garden to turn and find this colossal statue set. What I particularly enjoyed about this work was how you could play with perspective to play with the scale of each part. From certain angles, depending on whose side you are quite literally standing behind, these statues take up different forms.

Though, it must be duly noted, and was observed by my dear Art Historian companion, that the rock/crystal formations actually really take away from the piece. Once my attention was brought to them, I really couldn’t see them as anything but unsightly and somewhat lacking, in comparison to how much attention to detail was given to the statue set itself.

Ultimately, the whole collection was really worth viewing. Knowing it is only available until November 2021 had really put me on edge to ensure I didn’t miss the opportunity to see this whole exhibition in the Borghese.

Enjoy some of the pictures I took along my Borghese wanders. Some are Hirst, some are old classics 😉 I am NO photographer so be warned, but I hope I have captured even 1/656th of their mesmerising quality.

Alla prossima,

Ciara O’Siorain (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)











Birthday Weekend

It was my birthday (Il mio compleanno) this weekend and, oh my dear god, was I kept busy!

I am still feeling entirely whacked from the whole event, but in that really pleasant snoozy way you get after you eat too much good food and have done many pleasant things, you know what I mean, right? (sai cosa intendo, vero?)

(So whacked that I honestly amn’t sure where this particular blogpost should go. It is neither a New Country, No Problem situation, nor does it feature much Into the Wild animals, nor do I have much Crybaby O’Clock energy to give it. It features A Site and Sight of Ancient Rome, but I truly don’t have the energy as of yet to write my full report on Ostia Antica just yet… It also features a couple of my favourite Roman restaurants, which might need a whole new page in and of itself… I’ll pick New Country, No Problem, for now, but maybe I’ll expand this out at some stage! ANYWAYS (COMUNQUE), on with the weekend…)

I have managed to make it to twenty-four whole years old, and to celebrate, my parents flew over to see how I have settled in, to open absolutely every drawer (ogni cassetto) and cupboard (ogni credenza) I own, and to feed me full of good food (il buon cibo). Some of these actions were more appreciated than others.

Friday: Basically A Nothing Day Because Planes Are Tough

Their first day here was a nice lazy one. We went up through Ostiense and had lunch at Verde Pistacchio. Oh my god. To die for. The restaurant serves mainly vegan and vegetarian food which is important when you are ordering for someone with food allergies or food sensitivities. The staff were incredible and the food was honestly so delicious. If you know me, I am the pickiest eater on God’s green earth, but I ate absolutely everything that was put in front of me. If you try anything, please try the avocado smash. I am still dreaming about it now…

After lunch, we headed back to the apartment and I unpacked some of the boatloads of belongings & books I had asked my parents to bring over for me. After a wander around my neighbourhood, we headed for dinner in my favourite local pizzeria, Ristorante Pizzeria Luppolo e Farina. It’s very well priced, the servings are absolutely huge & I fancy at LEAST three of the waiters who work there. There is a lovely atmosphere to the restaurant, whether you sit inside or outside, and the staff are always pleasant and charming. Maybe I am saying that only because I fancy them, but I think you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Saturday: When We Celebrated My Glorious Birth

The following day, we were to meet with my landlords in the apartment so we had breakfast at home and lazed about for a little while. We wandered up through my neighbourhood, sitting to have coffee and to do some apartment-bits shopping. I made a semi-impromptu radical hair appointment (big reveal on my Instagram if I like it; 5 years from now when it’s finally funny if I don’t) and then we sat down for lunch.

For legal reasons, I will not name this restaurant but I have honestly never had food as bad in my life. Firstly, the service was slow, which is fine seeing as we had nowhere to be and nothing to do, but it does make you nervous when you have an allergic person ordering.

When we received our food, mine and my father’s prawns were entirely raw. Like the slimy, limp grey look that entirely raw prawns have. These bad boys hadn’t even touched a pan, they were frozen cold. VILE. Now, I don’t mind stupid silliness in restaurants even on my worst days. I used to work as a waitress, and the world’s worst one was I. I understand the absolute mayhem that a kitchen can be. But this was stupidity beyond belief, even for the busiest of kitchens.

The rest of our meal was nothing special. This particular restaurant was very pricey, despite how unexceptional its food was and how lifeless its staff. I will not return here even if you paid me. I don’t want to die any time soon.

After that brief underwhelm, I gathered myself to go shopping with my mother on the Via del Corso (I was feeling particularly brave, having been spared severe food poisoning). We bought a bunch of nice and lovely things, which we promptly returned the following day because neither of us liked a single thing we bought. Classic. At least it improved my Italian somewhat to have to figure out how to say ‘I am sorry, but I would like to return literally all of these things… Thanks so much…’ (‘mi dispiace, ma vorrei restituire letteralmente tutte queste cose… Grazie mille...’)

Saturday night, we went for dinner in a restaurant that we save for special occasions. This place is the ultimate food heaven in Rome to me. It is a restaurant that centres around truffles. Oh, yes. That is the smell of your wallet setting itself on fire, but I PROMISE YOU, it is so worth it ( è così ne vale la pena). It’s called Ristorante Pietro Valentini.

The perfect birthday dinner. The owner was serving us and took extra special care to ensure that allergies were no issue for us. We could have anything we liked and they would find an alternative way to serve it. You honestly cannot ask for better service, kindness or consideration.

We ate and ate and ate until I honestly could eat no more. However, I think you will agree from the photo of me post-cena, this food has healing properties that will make you five years younger. I have no science to back my claim up, but I haven’t looked this young in years. It’s magic, I am telling you! (Please ignore the reaction site from a tragic mosquito bite. Fun fact to find out in my first 24hrs here: I react awfully to them! And they bit me ALL OVER!)

There is also the most beautiful carved wood artwork inside the restaurant. It is small and homely, with low-hanging lights that are stunning in and of themselves.

To top the night off, I got to see a beautiful little gentleman who came in for his Saturday night meal just as the restaurant was closing its doors. Understandably, due to him being so incredibly handsome, they had to seat him immediately. I endorse this decision wholeheartedly.

Sunday: My Actual Birthday

On Sunday, we had a very busy day. We left for Ostia Antica and made it to the site for roughly 9.45am. We were due to meet our guide at 10am, however, they were a complete no-show. No issue. We just got new tickets and wandered our way to the entrance ticket office. (Being under 25 and from the EU, you get reduced price tickets! So, instead of €12.50, I paid a delightful €2 for my ticket. One more year of joyfully saving on beautiful sites…)

Just as we were to enter, our ‘guide’ came bounding up to us, trying to convince us of her presence the 45-mins we waited for her. Now, when I tell you there was LITERALLY nobody there, bar us, for ages, I am being serious. Not a soul was looking for us or making any efforts to contact the three confused Irish people standing in the direct entrance way. Despite this fact, she tried to convince us anyways.

May I also note: this woman was not dressed in an inconspicuous way whatsoever. I absolutely would have noticed a curly-haired lady in a luminous purple jacket calling out
“[Name removed]!” as she proclaims to have done. So, we ‘politely’ took our leave of her and wandered inside.

Ostia Antica deserves an entire post to itself, and so it shall when I finally muster the energy to do so. However, for now, let it suffice for me to say it was breathtaking (è mozzafiato). It is so much better preserved than I had thought it would be. The market mosaics are absolutely mind-blowing and the preserved amphitheatre is remarkable. I delighted in standing my parents in the correct spot so that they could hear just how fantastic and clever these structures are for reverberating sound. Please enjoy a selection of photos from this glorious site while I cook up a full post for it.

When we returned to The Land of Now, we had the pesky task of returning clothes to where they came from. I was feeling particularly exhausted and had to take a cat-nap upon my return. Twenty-four is already taking its toll on me, clearly.

After I had caught up on my beauty sleep (God knows, I needed it), we headed out to catch a live performance of some old favourites from Italian opera in the Teatro Flaiano. The musicians were brilliant; a stringed quartet of three violins and a double bass. The singers were also very talented and charming, however, I could not stop giggling after the curtain closed on them just as they stood before us ready to sing. Hilarious.

After the show, we went for a super late evening dinner which was spectacular. We dined at Antica Osteria di Pietra. It was super busy, but the staff were still incredibly accommodating and our food was delicious. Sadly, I took no pictures because I scarfed everything put in front of me in mere seconds. It was not my most dignified dine, I’ll give you that.

However, it is a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, so we walked down to marvel at the Trevi Fountain’s beauty after we paid the bill. I love the very moment when you begin to hear the fall of water, just before the Trevi Fountain comes into view. It is such a tangibly exciting feeling. I must have seen the Trevi Fountain hundreds of times at this stage, but there is always something more special about seeing it again with new people. It is probably just me, but I have tied to the Trevi Fountain and to the Pantheon such sentimental feelings that whenever I stand before them, I feel like I am eighteen, seeing them for the first time.

‘PB270086.jpg’ by Matt Brisher on Flickr

After this, we went home and watched a film together on my teeny weeny laptop because I have sorted out my TV situation and just gotten a Chromecast already.

In the morning, I fed and coffee-ed my dear, long-suffering parents and we said our farewells. I thought I would feel an instant rush of relief at their parting, but I really just felt instantly homesick to see my whole family and my dog. Never one to linger long on an uncomfortable feeling, this was quickly fixed by flicking through my memory Home Album and my Instagram highlights, full of videos of my dog being the Ultimate Best Boy.

In short, I had the most incredible birthday weekend and I feel immensely lucky to have the family I do. Though, with that said, I am not rushing home any time soon – the dolce here are just too good…

Alla prossima,
Ciara O’Siorain (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Precious Roman Parakeets

Sitting on my balcony this morning, something scared the living bejaysus out of me. That thing was an interrupting Roman parakeet.

After the torrential thunderstorm that occurred all last night and into the early hours of this morning, I was sitting on my balcony in my usual fashion; in a pair of fluffy pink slippers and f-ugly PJs. With a glass of peach & mango juice in hand, I was minding my own business when a speedy bright green bullet of a thing shot right past my face.

If the reader knows me at all, they will know that I internalise absolutely all high-emotion, instead, offering up a face of entire discontent and boredom. This occasion was no different, but internally, please do know, I was screaming in terror.

After mentally gathering myself together, I looked to find the cheeky beggar who just scared the lights out of me.

It was this little f*cker:

‘parakeet’ by Heather Smithers on Flickr

Well, not this EXACT parakeet. My little devious devil flew past me to a neighbouring tree and camouflaged himself just enough for me to be able to see him, but not to be able to take a clear photo. I know this because I desperately attempted to do so while telling my dear nature-enthused friend, Connor, about the existence of ‘BRIGHT GREEN BIRDS’ here in Rome. It hadn’t occurred to me to Google what EXACT kind of green bird it was. I just guessed a parrot and moved on with my day.

Possibly this was because Facebook and Instagram FINALLY came back online after a half-day outage. Being by yourself in a foreign country without social media was deeply boring. I had to face up to my possible social media addiction this morning, as I trailed through countless friends’ stories I had missed, learning nothing at all and remembering nothing in particular.

Eventually, it occurred to me that this little green bird might be something worth discovering, and so, HERE WE ARE.

The Roman Parakeets

The sad thing about these birds is that they, of course, are not supposed to be here. The two species of parakeet, the rose-ringed parakeet and the monk parakeet, are originally from Asia and South America respectively. However, because of human’s being dumb-ass humans and inadequately housing or releasing these birds in the late 20th-century, they came to form colonies all around the parks of Rome. They are two of few examples of bird species which have successfully adapted to an urban environment. This is probably due to even more dumb-ass human behaviour encouraging the climate to become more and more tropical in Rome. You can imagine that this will have a longterm effect on the pre-existing ecosystem, however, I can’t find much online to back me on this one other than some vague comments about nest-building space competition and the competition for food. You know, the usual things that cause less-adaptive, more delicate species to go extinct.

Here’s a cheeky video of a Roman parakeet chilling in a tree. The video is not so well-shot but it’s very similar to my attempt earlier this morning. If, by ANY CHANCE, a passerby has a video of me this morning nearly being knocked off my balcony by my shock at seeing one of these, I would more than appreciate getting to watch it.

You can find these birds all over the place, but if you’d like to go on a mad one bird-spotting, you can almost always find them in the Villa Borghese gardens.

Alla prossima,

Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

Wanted in Rome

An American in Rome

From the Vault: How to Fly the Nest or Come Far Volare il Nido

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -2 (September 29, 2021)

So, there is less than 72 hours remaining before I am walking off a plane into the beautiful Roman sunshine.

This image of me, sitting on the balcony in my apartment, sipping orange juice and watching the sun arcing through the blue sky has propelled me through the entire hellscape years that were the Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. However, I am starting to feel a little bit homesick before I’ve even left my home!

(I feel that, years from now, there will be a diagnosis of Stockholm Syndrome-esque behaviour for people who have become unhealthily attached to their home-spaces due to COVID-19 lockdowns. But, I digress…)

Ridiculous, I know. But I’m a serious home-bird. I can’t stand my family half the time but I can’t stand to be without them either. I’ve discussed in previous posts how to prepare yourself financially for a big move and how to plan where you’re going to live, but I haven’t really discussed how to prepare yourself mentally. So in this post, I talk about how to prepare yourself to spread your wings and fly from the nest.

Create a Home from Home

Now, this can come in many forms. For some people, having a cuddly teddy from their childhood is enough home-comfort for when they travel. Some people keep a prized necklace or a t-shirt of a loved one to wear or cuddle up with when they feel lonely.

What I created was a ‘Home’ album.

From the barebones of a photo album from Mr. Price*, I have filled in as many of my favourite photographs, ticket stubs, notes from friends, birthday and Christmas cards, postcards & other memorabilia from my life that fill me with the warm fuzzies.

Every time I feel like I’m missing home awfully, I plan to whip this bad boy out and take a trip down memory lane. The chances of me not crying at every single page are slim, as I filled this ‘home-journal’ chock-full of emotionally charged photos of my family, letters from loved ones and tickets from past trips abroad. But that is the whole point. If you aren’t crying, you aren’t doing the home-journal right. It is ESSENTIAL that you make it as emotionally raw as possible for yourself. It must be an experience, otherwise it’s just a journal full of regular old stuff.

*Honestly, the most thrilling place in Dublin during lockdown. I would get so excited to go here that it almost felt like Disneyland every time I got in the car to go pick up detergent or dog treats or whatever was on the list that day. Embarrassing, but I still get the jittery-good-vibes at the thought of a wander through Mr. Price, even though lockdown lifted weeks ago…

A sneak peak of a soon-to-be tear-soaked Home Journal

Say a proper goodbye to your loved ones

Now, this one actually sucks.

Generally, I loathe saying goodbye. It’s too emotional, it’s awkward, it’s often scripted but unscripted – it’s a whole mess. Instead, I much prefer to give a good old ‘Irish goodbye’, slinking out of events, parties and occasions without so much as a wave to say ‘I’m off!’

However, when you’re leaving home for the foreseeable future to live in a completely different country, you will find yourself saying goodbye to someone everyday for at least a month before you leave. Maybe this is a very Irish thing, but I feel as though I have seen almost every single person I’ve ever been close to within the space of eight weeks for various forms of ‘hello-goodbye’ hangouts and check-in/check-outs.

For someone who hates goodbyes, you can imagine I’m sick of saying it at this point. But nevertheless, all of these moments are really important. They cement in your head a little bit more with each one that you really and truly are doing this; that you are going off on your own adventure. It reminds you of those you love and who love you, but where life is just in the way for the moment. Those who will be there no matter where you go, and those for whom you’d travel to the ends of the Earth for.

And don’t forget to leave your contact details with your loved ones! Who knows when you might need a good boatload of Barry’s Tea or Cadbury’s chocolate shipped to you. Some Irish essentials should not have ‘goodbye’ said to them, no matter where you go.

‘Cadbury’s Flake Easter Egg Look At The Shell’ by Lee McCoy on Flickr

Curate a list of your favourite home comfort foods

This will be further explored in the post topic, ‘The Tastes of Home in Rome’, but suffice to say here that, if you’re someone to whom food means a great deal, it is a no-brainer to bring your favourite recipes with you.

Sit down with yourself and have a deep think about what meals take you right back to your home-spaces, to your friends and family, to your childhood, to your roots.

I have a select list of my favourite cakes, bakes and cook-ups that bring me right back to certain memories, places or people, which I shall reveal throughout the year as I return to these recipes to ‘come home’ when I’m in Rome.

It truly is the easiest way to take care of yourself while you’re struggling with home-sickness. Food is key to wellbeing, for sure, but good food is King.

A List of Pleasant Distractions

I am a big fan of staying a badass, boss, busy b*tch. Rarely do I find myself lost within the day with nothing to do and nothing to explore. However, when I feel under-stimulated or if there’s a dull week in work, those awful tentacles of lonely thoughts and self-doubt can creep up and absolutely ruin my day.

So, to prepare yourself against Boredom Self-Bullying, may I suggest making a long list of sites, museums, events, exhibitions, venues and acts that you most want to see while you are living away from home? This list will ensure that on any given day where you find yourself by yourself and with nothing to do, nobody to see, you can DATE YOURSELF.

This is, for me, the most important skill I have learned in my early years of adulthood. Learning to enjoy being by myself has been insanely empowering. Not only do I enjoy hanging out with myself and going exploring new things with myself, but I feel confident in my abilities to take care of myself in the face of challenges. There is no better feeling than taking yourself off to see some incredible art exhibition and allowing yourself the mental space to discuss with yourself what you feel, experience and learn while there. It’s just a delicious, addictive experience.

I have filled in my whole calendar for the year with the upcoming festivals, temporary exhibitions, tours, events and concerts that Rome has to offer. I have also listed off into different categories (art, music, theatre, culture, food, etc.) different places and sights that I am desperate to see for the first time (or the second time… or quite possibly the fifth time…) so that, when I find myself with a free afternoon, I can whisk myself off on an adventure with relative ease.

‘Rome’ by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

Take a Billion Photos of Your Pets Before You Leave!

And now, the part of the post you’ve all been waiting for…

Spam photos of my best friend in the whole world… My Dog. He is most definitely the hardest one to say goodbye to, by far. He is just under 2 years old, and the sweetest little monster to exist upon God’s Green Earth. If I could take him in my suitcase, I would. However, I have to leave him in the loving care of my parents instead.

To prepare myself for the absolute agony of leaving him, I have taken a million photos and videos of him on my phone so that when I miss him, I can just open up my phone’s photo albums and pretend I am with him playing ball in the garden or getting absolutely RKO-ed by him on the daily coming in the door.

The Ultimate Best Boy in the Entire World According to Me & Anyone with Eyes and a Brain

And that’s the T on Flying the Nest!

Hopefully, this post gave you some good ideas for preparing yourself to leave your family and friends behind while you go on a big adventure. As painful as goodbye is, it is also so much sweeter to think of how much ‘Home’ will mean when you return again to regale everyone with the tales of your trips and travels.

Alla prossima,

Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

My Top Tips:

  • Bring an empty journal with you. This is going to be your Sad Girl Journal, where you document the thoughts that pass through your head while you’re lonely/sad/bored and away from your regular support system. Think about it; if you’re going to have to deal with downs and bad times, you may as well glean some valuable insights into yourself while it’s happening. One of the most beautiful things about being by yourself is that you can really take the time to open up your inner world and take care of some parts of you that may otherwise lie neglected. Remember: you can go anywhere you want, but you’ll always take yourself with you! So, why not work on making that ‘you’ one that serves you best?
  • Leave some space in your home-journal for more pictures when you’re away. There is no rule about how many ‘home-spaces’ one can feel connected to, and if you ever choose to leave this new ‘home-space’, you might want some photos that take you back here whenever you look at them. If it’s been a really good home-space for you, they might even make you cry too!
  • Organise times with loved ones where you can check-in with each other. Life happens, and people get busy, but I can promise you that keeping a regular check-in with close friends and loved ones is invaluable when you or they are away.
  • Accept the risk of emotional vulnerability and tell people that you miss them as you miss them. I can bet they miss you too and that hearing you’re missing them will bring them all the warm fuzzies, which will then in turn give you all the warm fuzzies.
  • If you miss your dog, offer to walk a neighbours or put up a sign offering your services. You will get all the doggie cuddles and they get their pet exercised and minded. Win-Win.

From the Vault: Come Fare Spazio Nella Tua Vita or How to Make Space in Your Life

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -23 (September 8, 2021)  

How do you decide (come decidi) what to pack when moving away? What is essential (essenziale); what is useful (utile); what has sentimental value (valore sentimentale) but is otherwise a complete and utter waste of space (spreco di spazio)? 

Those who know me well will know that I am a terrible hoarder of things I don’t need; shop receipts (gli scontrini del negozio), ‘collector’ item dolls, snow globes, perfume bottles, multiple copies of the same books, heaps of broken clothes I am adamant I will one day return to their former glory. You name it; if you’re looking for something (cercare qualcosa) in my house, it’s best to come to me. I’ve probably hoarded it for ‘safe-keeping’. 

So, now that it has finally come to having to pack up my whole life to move to Rome, I am REALLY struggling to figure out (per capire) what I need, what I want, and what I can leave behind. 

May I introduce the life saver technique?

The Rule of 5: How to Cut Your Life into Pieces (this is my last resort)

So, your first plan of action is to divide your life into five sections (cinque sezioni). These can be any five sections that best suit you. For example, mine are: 

  1. Clothing (L’abbigliamento)
  2. Beauty (Bellezza)
  3. Books (I libri)
  4. Electronics (L’elettronica)
  5. Hobbies (I Passatempi)

These are the five sections into which you’re going to create further categories of items, creating hierarchies of high, medium and low need. 

How to Make Space In Your Life: Packing Up Clothes

1) Clothing

This is arguably the most time-consuming and difficult (difficile) category if you are like me, filling your closets with as many items of clothing that you can get your hands on, refusing to throw away or donate anything that breaks or no longer fits. In order to figure out what I would actually be wearing in Rome and what I actually like to wear, I took some inspiration from my fashionable and talented cousin, Lauren Paxton, of The Edit: Wardrobe Stylist.

The Edit: Wardrobe Stylist Instagram became my mini-Mecca for creating a functioning and comfortable capsule wardrobe. Following Lauren’s tips and tricks, I gathered all of my favourite clothing items and lay them out, figuring out what is my most versatile piece of clothing and building from there. I figured out what colours were going to work across the seasons (for me, I am a big earth tones girl) and what pieces I can build outfits around with little effort. E quindi, I was ready to play the Rule of 5.

How I played The Rule of 5 for Clothing was by choosing shirts, trousers, t-shirts, skirts, shorts and so on that I really liked and actually wear on a regular basis (regolarmente). I lay out my bases ─ trousers, skirts, shorts, (i pantaloni, le gonne, i pantalonci) ─ and then I tried to match each top and shirt to AT LEAST five of the base items. If I couldn’t, or if there were too few matches, I put it back in the closet (l’armadio). This eliminated many of the items that were either too similar to other items and eliminated some of the heavier skirts & jackets that matched virtually nothing (even if they are super cute).

Eventually, I ended up with a written list with five items on each category of clothing: 5 shirts (le camicie), 5 skirts (le gonne), 5 trousers (i pantaloni), 5 t-shirts (le magliette), 5 dresses (i vestiti), 5 jackets (le giacche) and so on. I then put these 5 things in order of preference and need as I only have one 20kg suitcase (la vaglia) coming with me on the day I move, and two arriving the following week. In my 20kg case that’s travelling with me, I put my highest matching and most essential clothing items. In the other two cases, I divided up my remaining clothing items.

2) Beauty

Next, beauty. Now, as I’ve mentioned previously in another blogpost, I am not a big girly-girl. I don’t spend a lot of time making myself beautiful, doing my hair or nails or makeup. Part of the reason I am so determined to embrace ‘Bella Figura‘ as a concept is to put this to rights.  However, this isn’t to say I don’t have a terrible hoard of makeup and beauty supplies. Oh boy, do I ever.*

So the Rule of 5 came into great use once more. Can you guess how it went?

That’s right: 5 lipsticks/liners, 5 palettes, 5 face cleansing/moisturising products, 5 eye brushes, 5 face brushes, 5 eye products (eye liner, eye brow gel etc.) and so on until I had a bag filled with bare essentials. Seeing as I am going to live in the home of Kiko, bringing this much still feels a bit excessive, but considering the absolute mountain of eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks I currently own, it still feels like quite a victory.

*I seem to have accumulated in the short three years of living in my family’s house a plethora of tester and freebie bottles of Clinque. I don’t mean just a handful. Currently, I have 12 small 50ml ‘Dramatically Different’ moisturisers sitting on a shelf. The kicker? I don’t even use this moisturiser because it’s too oily for my skin type. Why do I have 12 bottles? Beats me. I just can’t bring myself to throw them out.

3) Books

Okay, so maybe I lied and THIS is the hardest category. It’s fine to sneak a cheeky chiffon top in with your five shirts, squeezing it into a secret sixth item (un sesto oggetto segreto). Even a small in-case-of-emergencies (in-caso-di-emergenza) lipstick can be overlooked. But it is much harder to hide all the translated works of Plato into a single ‘book’ and get away with it when it comes to suitcase weight. I entirely scrapped the notion of just five books because c’mon, I’m an English Literature graduate (la saccente di letteratura), however, I did use the Rule of 5 to dictate what kinds of books I could bring in abundance. That list is as follows…
    1) History books and traveller tales
    2) Language books & guide books
    3) Books I have stared at for a solid 5 years repeating, “You’re next, I swear” over and over until I die
    4) Books to warm my heart when things are absolutely horrible (life has a way of doing that sometimes, no matter where you are!)

How this went was almost a Rule of 5 within a Rule of 5. I lay out my top five favourite Roman history texts to consult and my favourite travel novels. I lay out my language and guide books. Then, the books I am desperate to read but just haven’t found the time yet. And following these, I lay out my all-time favourite books that must be at hand in case of a bad day where I need a good escape.

As I was absolutely bringing every single one of these, I decided by order of necessity which were coming with me and which were coming in my later cases. Then, because I am a hot mess who struggles to follow the rules of my own creation, I made the arduous trip up and down from my attic bedroom with my two suitcases to follow me, standing up on the scales with them in my arms to check how many books I could sneak into the bags before I went wildly over the limit. I reckon maybe 5 more…

Maybe if I stuff all my clothes into one suitcase… I could bring more books in my carry-on… Nobody needs to know…
4) Electronics
This one is delightfully straightforward. It functions almost more like a ‘do not forget’ list rather than a difficult-decision-maker
1) Phone & charger (il telefono & il caricatore)
2) Laptop & charger (il portatile & il caricatore)
3) Camera & charger (la fotocamera)
4) Speaker (charger same as camera) (il altoparlante)
5) Hair dryer (l’asciugacapelli)

Packing up to move abroad: What to bring and what to leave behind

5) Hobbies

Again, delightfully straightforward. Pick 5 behaviours you’d class as hobbies. Pick your most necessary items (gli articoli essenziali) for this, and work your way down to item numero cinque (if you have that many; I thankfully don’t). For me, these are: 1) Pole Dance & Fitness (5 dance sets, my hand grip, 5 towels)
2) Music (Guitar capo, pick & songbook)
3) Writing (research journal)
4) Muscle Rehab & Flexibility Training (bands, blocks, ball, wrist & ankle straps)
5) Hoop (gloves, 3 leggings, 3 sports bras)
At this stage, you should be almost completely packed. But don’t forget (non dimenticate)… 

Hand Luggage: Carry-On & Handbag

The ultimate test of packing comes down to these two pieces of hand luggage. If you fly Ryanair like the cheapskate (uno spilorcio) I am, you will want to get every single penny worth of the money they extract from you in the booking process. If I have to pay extra for my cabin bag, you can be DAMNED SURE I am stuffing that thing with as much as I possibly can without incurring further nonsense costs. The carry-on case is also a good place for a laptop and for all the heavy electronics to go, should you need to save some weight in your check-in bag. I also try hard to pile as many of the heavier books into this case to save myself the weight of my check-in. This is also where I put all my stockpiled medicines (thank you trash immune system). I never trust that my check-in bags will arrive in the same country at the same time as I do, so it is important for me to pack this travel-on bag with some essentials should I find myself trapped abroad waiting a week or two for my luggage to reappear. 
Another sneaky thing I enjoy doing is bringing the largest possible handbag I can to further stuff with secret additional clothing and books. At the bottom of my handbag on any day I am travelling by plane, you will find approximately 10 pairs of socks, a few pairs of underwear rolled up tight, 3+ books of varying sizes, a spare phone charger, spare earphones and much more. Anything that can be tightly shoved into my bag below my passport and purse is going in the handbag. Need a hair straightener or an English-Italian dictionary in the airport, anyone? You know who to call! 

So that’s the whole process of packing up my life, broken down across the many ways to play the Rule of 5. I hope you found this somewhat helpful in gathering your s%*t together to make the big move away! 

Alla prossima, 

Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

My Top Tips for Making Space in Your Life: 

  • Donating your unused, unloved clothes is great, but throwing away “friends” who make you feel used and unloved is FAR better. Start making notes. This is a great opportunity to leave behind you a great deal more than just a cigarette-burned shirt you loved when you were sixteen.
  • Don’t forget – wherever you’re going is more than likely going to have shops. So don’t go wild packing silly nonsense. Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Look up TheFoldingLady on TikTok. They have incredible ways of folding your clothes into the tiniest, tiniest balls to fit any nook and cranny. Incredible. Thank me later.