Flying Out and Settling In

Tesoro Irlandese: Day 1 (October 2, 2021)

So, I’ve made it to Rome in one piece. ‘Hurray’, I hear you say.

Trust me, I am just as shocked as you are.

This post is a much more bloggy-style post than my usual, but I honestly have no energy for grabbing up some delicious sites and research for you right now. The best tip I will offer is to check BEFORE you move country whether the tap water is safe to drink. I am one of the lucky ones.

The Airport

So, I arrived stupid early for my flight because I am usually a very anxious flier. However, I managed to arrive a whole 20 minutes before my check-in even opened. I do not recommend.

When I finally checked my hold bag in and sauntered off to security, I suddenly realised that wearing every single heavy thing you own to get through the bag weight checks was not my brightest idea. I unloaded off of myself a sheer 3 kilo weight in clothes, belts, necklaces, shoes, phones, iTouch, chargers and any other heavy-ass sh*t I could fit in my pockets. Which is fine, until you have to put it all back on again, as the conveyor belt keeps coming and more people start waddling through the security check towards you.

Panic stations

Finally free to wander around Duty Free, I picked up a bottle of poitín for my landlords. Nothing screams ‘Irish’ like gifting strangers a bottle of true weaponry.

I was absolutely starving hungry, so I wandered up to the T1 top floor restaurant. Big mistake numero dos. The wait for a table was over 45-minutes long. Absolute nightmare. I found myself parked in this queue behind a troop of child dancers and their mothers, a scene quite reminiscent of Dance Moms. Imagine glitter and hot pink everything, furry jackets in neon and the wafting smell of stale cigarette smoke (from the mothers, of course.)

Eventually, I made it to the plane & fell asleep almost instantly. This was an ideal situation, seeing as I am usually grossly anxious at take-off and landing, but by collapsing into sleep almost instantly, I avoided all this ugliness.

Landing in Rome: Day 0

My landlord was kind enough to inform me in advance of WeTaxi, the FreeNow or Uber of Italy, so when I got off my plane, I booked my taxi and hightailed it to my apartment. Having gotten through the doors, I realised I was in a predicament. It had become Ciara & her 40kg bags VS. Italian apartment stairs. In this moment, I thanked god for pole-dancing and the strength it has given me. I put my best foot forward, reefing my bags up two stories of apartment stairs before taking a heaving and sweaty break.

Just as I prepared to lug my crap another flight, out of a hidden elevator bounced the sweetest and most adorable dachshund I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I was overwhelmed with my own stupidity and my adoration of the world’s cutest dog. His owner came out behind him, talking very quickly in Italian with a face of pure shock at my current state of sweatiness or maybe my stupidity… Possibly both. All I understood was ‘valise’, which means ‘suitcase’. I nodded and dragged my suitcases up into this mysterious elevator while this man and his perfect pooch ran down the stairs.

Now, another added layer of confusion. I actually didn’t even know what floor my apartment was on. Instead, what I did know was what colour welcome mat lay at the foot of my door. And so began the odd event of having to travel up one floor, open the double doors and peer at people’s shoe mats, passing a face of what must seem like judgement, and continuing on my upwards journey.

Eventually, like Goldilocks, I found the mat I was looking for. I let myself into the apartment and felt such a rush of overwhelming relief. I had actually made it here alive and in one piece, with only a handful of complete miscommunications or strange events. I’d call that a win in my books.

Learning to Live

Sadly, a family bereavement kept my landlords from being able to meet with me, however, we had quite a laugh on video chat to each other as I tried and failed to figure out how to work the gas or how to open up a set of shutters. This day was not a day for my dignity, it has to be said.

Eventually, hungry and having napped AGAIN, I wandered out to find my local supermarket (I would find out later this was, in fact, NOT my local supermarket.) A 15-minute walk is nothing to me back in Dublin, so I wandered off down the road, following my Google Maps like a loyal puppy dog to CarreFour.

Having picked up all of the first-hand essentials (which apparently were ALL just massive heavy bottles of stuff) and having made a hames of buying a pepper, I walked the long and arduous walk back to my apartment.

Again, this was not the ‘Bella Figura’ moment I was imagining for myself. I had dreamed I’d pick up a handful of grapes, some oranges and some mango & peach juice, and casually stroll home, swinging my net shopping bag as I swished a long skirt behind me as I walked.

Instead, I was in a pair of hideous tourist shorts, holding two ‘fit-to-burst’-ing bags of detergents, olive oil, onions, juice, shampoo, conditioner etc., storming my way back to my apartment, enraged at the wild way in which traffic works in Rome. It was for sure ‘A Look’.

First Meals in a New Home

Back home, I decided I was too exhausted to make anything substantial for food. It was roughly 3pm but it felt like 6am in the morning. So I made bruschetta. And MY GOD. The tomatoes. I had been dreaming about the taste of Italian tomatoes for so long and they were just divine. My mouth is watering thinking about them in the kitchen right now. Incredible.

Later, after yet another long disco nap, I called my best friend while making pasta. I told her basically everything I’ve just wrote up here and we chatted about how strange living by yourself is in a new place, as she had moved from Italy to Ireland for university a few years back. The whole day gave me such a new found respect for anyone who moves abroad for Uni, especially to somewhere with a completely different language. Kudos to you all, eighteen-year-old me could have never coped. Twenty-three year old me is only just figuring it out.

(She also brought me through a video chat introduction to making coffee with the moka coffee maker. I am currently making coffee for myself so I can sit on my balcony and people-watch. I live in a place where people are always walking dogs, and it is just delightful)

Cyclicality of Life, or maybe I should travel elsewhere?

I’d been thinking throughout the day of how much had changed within my own life since I’d last been to Rome. I’d managed to survive (so far) a global pandemic, graduated from my undergraduate and completed a Master’s degree, and a few other things I was deeply proud of. I wondered what the Me-of-Then would say to the Me-of-Now about our moving away to Rome.

Taken on my birthday, 2019

The last time I was in Rome, it was almost perfectly two years to this date. I had come for a trip with a boyfriend for my birthday. Despite having been to Rome three times before this trip and never straying very far from the historic centre and tourist places, I found myself completely paralysed by anxiety throughout the trip. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t decide what I wanted and I had no adequate way of communicating what I was feeling. It was altogether hopeless. I’d loved being in my heart-city, but just couldn’t shake the feeling that something truly awful was about to happen.

Colosseo 2019

Looking back on Me-of-Then, I feel so sorry for her and I wish I could show her the next few years to soothe her. Despite how absolutely ridiculous some of the situations are that I can mangle myself up into, I don’t feel that level of terror and panic anymore. I feel nervous but more excited than anything. And I most DEFINITELY have more to fear now than I did back then.

Rome 2019

But being back here in Rome, looking out over the city last night especially, I feel very in touch with who I was at 21: when I was afraid to speak, afraid to say what I wanted, afraid to just go with the flow in case something awful happened. But I am able to take care of her now, far better than I was when I was 21. I think maybe that’s how life always is; a cyclical turning-back to mind your past-self as you venture blindly forward towards your future-self.

Alla prossima,

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

Mary’s Coffee and Chocolate Cake

Mary’s Coffee & Chocolate Cake, otherwise entitled by my child-self as “The Best Choco Cake”, but really, it came from the Grace’s, in Australia.  

So, unlike other recipe blogs where they shite on for about 576 years about the origin story of their recipe, I’m going to cut to the chase and give you the recipe FIRST. If you want to learn more about me and why this cake means as much to me as it does, you can read past the recipe. I’m not gonna force anyone to wait any longer than they need to to get to the delicious chocolatey goodness that is this cake. 

The Recipe

Ingredients required: 

– 2 eggs
– 2 cups of sugar (not specified by kid-me, so I use half golden light and half white caster)
– 250g of flour (self-raising or plain flour with baking powder added) (CLEARLY kid-me did not care about sticking to a single metric system… Or maybe it was Mary… Yeah, let’s say it was Mary…) 
– 1 cup of coffee 
– 250g of butter (melted) 
– 1 cup of cocoa powder (kid-me has kindly written: NOT DRINKING CHOCOLATE) 
– 200g of chocolate (melted) 
– 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence 
Instructions:

1) Melt butter in a saucepan then add the sugar. Mix until liquid. 
2) Add the chocolate (or choco, if you’re hip like I was) and wait until melted.
3) Add the flour (carefully) and add the eggs. 
4) Add the cocoa, coffee and vanilla essence.
5) Cook for 1 hour on 150℃
6) When cool, add melted chocolate over the top and enjoy!

The Backstory: Why is this a Taste of Home in Rome?

When I was growing up, my parents both worked crazy long hours. So, I would spend a lot of my time hanging about in my best-friend’s house. Her family became a second-family to me, to the point of fighting with her brothers as I would with my own. 

We spent countless afternoons, mornings and evenings together. We did all kinds of after-school activities and hobbies together, such as horse-riding, ballet, life-saving… You name it, we did it. But one of my favourite things to do was to bake in her house. 

Now, my childhood best-friend is the most talented baker I know. Her cakes and cookies would earn the most money at school bake-sales & her recipes are closely guarded by those trusted with their secrets. I am one of these friends; one who will hold close to her chest the recipe for her mind-blowing brownies until the day I die. 

So one day, when I was told we were going to make this chocolate cake from a recipe that had come all the way from Australia, I was so excited. The Grace’s, family friends of my friend’s family, had moved over to Australia a few years before but had remained in touch. They gifted this incredible ‘Mud Chocolate Cake’ recipe and I was in awe of it. Not only was it the most rich, moist and delicious cake I had ever tasted, but it was concocted in a saucepan!  

And the smell! You cannot tell me there is any smell better than melting Cadbury’s chocolate. There just isn’t. The smell of melting Cadbury’s chocolate brings me straight to morning walks through Coolock with the intoxicating smell of melting chocolate wafting from the factory. 

I was so obsessed with this scrumptious cake that I asked my best-friend for the recipe almost immediately (see below for the evidence). She very kindly wrote down random bits of the methodology for going about making this cake, and I was so mesmerised by the fact we were using a saucepan that I paid no heed to the order of things. So, I had to make up some of the directions as I went, a few years later (at the ripe age of 11) upon finding this cake recipe, based upon what I could recall from it and my experiences as the O’Síoráin Household #1 Baker. 

I also had to find out the hard way that the ‘cups’ both I and she would use were more like coffee mugs, so I had to figure out again how much flour and cocoa powder should be involved. (I’ve since reneged on my 11-year-old self, 1.25 cups of cocoa powder is just too much.)

‘IMG_8507’ by Olga Khomitsevich on Flickr

Since this fateful, chocolatey day in their household, this has been my go-to chocolate cake for all occasions. It is the ultimate Death-By-Chocolate-esque desert; perfect for birthdays, pot-dinners, winning over younger relatives to think you’re very, very cool ─ you name it. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a winner every damn time.

God, I’ve made myself hungry…

Alla prossima,

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

Va Fa Napoli! or Go To Tuscan Hell! … AKA Naples

One might remember this iconic phrase from the even more iconic Joey Tribbiani of the hit TV-show, Friends. In this episode, Chandler and Joey (the best of friends) fall out over a girl they both like. Every time Joey encounters Chandler, he tells him ‘Vafanapoli!’ But what does he even mean?

Well, like the Reddit users arguing in this thread, Tuscans don’t really use this phrase. What they REALLY say is far more vulgar, but if I put that on this blog I am going to have to use sensitive content warnings, so why don’t you take a second to peruse this unassuming and totally innocent link…. 

‘Central Perk’ by William Warby on Flickr

Okay, now that you’re on board, let’s talk about Naples. 

Va Fa Napoli: What’s the deal with Naples?

So, if Joey’s insult is a fabrication, is there any truth to it? Why Naples? 

Good question, Me. 

In this post, I explore the good and the bad of Naples. However, I will be largely ignoring Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and such like because they will be discussed properly in their own blogpost later in this series. 

For now, let’s look at the dirty underbelly of Naples… 

‘Naples’ by Pug Girl on Flickr

Nasty Naples 

Naples has a bad reputation amongst tourists to Italy, who consider the City of Naples to be dangerous, dirty and unnecessary to any trip to Pompeii or the Amalfi Coast

Naples has a fairly prominent Mafia-like crime gang, known as the Camorra, which you can read some more about here. According to Business Insider, it is the Camorra who are to blame for the city’s infamous trash problem. Alarmingly, their article mentions the absurdly high rate of cancer that results from long-time exposure to the toxic waste dumped in and around the Naples area. However, as reported by Wanted In Rome, this issue has been largely addressed in Naples. The presence of the Camorra is not as recognisable as it once was, with most tourists entirely unaware of their influence in the city should they not already know. Most tourists complain of pick pockets and petty thieves, but this is not uncommon in any main city in Italy, especially considering how many operate in Rome.

These issues are not insubstantial, but to disregard Naples so quickly on an ugly phase in its history would be to miss out on one of Italy’s most precious historical gems. There is a reason Naples’ historic centre is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. 

‘Naples’ by Pug Girl on Flickr

Nice Naples

You would have to be Bobo the Fool to not know that Naples has a long history, originating as a Greek city and continuing to be an important port in Southern Italy. The city is in close proximity to Mount Vesuvius, that cheeky volcanic devil who smothered Pompeii and the other sites you can read about in my blogpost here

As a result of this fine and rich history, Naples has much to offer besides the incredible site of Pompeii, beginning with the National Museum of Archaeology.

‘Detail of the Alexander Mosaic’ by Carole Raddato on Flickr 

Museo Archeologico Nazionale

In The National Archaeological Museum, you can find much of the archeological artefacts and evidence retrieved from the ruins of Pompeii and the surrounding Vesuvian plains. It is here you will get a great feel for the Ancient Pompeiian people, with epigraphs, mosaics, ancient erotic artwork, wall frescoes and street pottery detailing the politics of the time. Not to mention the colossal Farnese collection of Greek and Roman statues. It is well worth the visit if you are a big Classics nerd, like me.

‘Catacombs of San Gennaro, Naples (17)’ by Richard Mortel on Flickr

The Naples Cathedral and The Catacombs of San Gennaro

Built on the foundations of a 6th Century cathedral, Duomo Di Napoli, Naples Cathedral, or San Gennaro Cathedral, dates from around 1294 – 1323. It remains despite having been subjected to the throes of an earthquake and significant bombing during World War II. There are many notable things in this cathedral for the more artsy among us, however, there is something of particular interest to me: The Chapel of the Treasury of San Gennaro

This architectural gem was designed by Francesco Grimaldi in the early 17th-century and features the art work of many famous painters and sculptors. The background to why St. Januarius became the patron saint of Naples is that Naples and its people were in big trouble in the 16th-century. The Neapolitan people expressed a solemn vow to St. Januarius that they would build a chapel in exchange for his eternal protection. St. Januarius must have agreed, somehow, because this is how the chapel came to be here today. 

If you’re into spooky tombs, which I admit I am, then the Catacombe di San Gennaro is for you. In the 5th-century, Saint Januarius’ body was interred here, making it the oldest catacomb in Naples. On offer are fresco paintings and mosaics dating from the 2nd-century. Within these tombs, there is a wealthy of information regarding how the different strata of society were buried. The tomb also holds the earliest portrait of the saint as the protector of Naples. 

‘Villa Imperiale di Pausilypon e la Gaiola’ by Antonio Manfredonio on Flickr

La Gaiola 

This next one is really special and is WAY up there on my To-Do list: Gaiola Underwater Park. This is a marine protected area which Visit Naples boasts has volcanological, biological and historic-archaeological sites to explore and marvel. It makes up roughly 42 hectares of sea and is home to some of the most varied sea flora and fauna in the Mediterranean, according to Visit Naples. There are centuries-old Ancient Roman ruins visible from the sea bed! Che figata, no? Not only is this place visually stunning, but it ALSO has ghost stories. C’mon?! It has everything. So, story goes, that this island was the wreck and ruin of its many inhabitants. One persistent spirit is that of a ghost woman, one who is said to have died in a shipwreck. But the island can do one better on this story. Other locals say that the ghost is that of Hans Braun’s wife. Hans himself was found murdered and rolled up in a carpet in his own villa, whereafter his wife fell into the sea in an accident caused by a cable car fault. An unfortunate couple to say the least. 

‘Virgil’s Tomb by Joseph Wright’ by Derby Museums on Flickr

Tomb of the Poet Virgil 

Publicus Vergilius Maro, otherwise known as Virgil, is said to be buried in Piedigrotta in Naples. Virgil was a Roman poet during the reign of Augustus, who famously wrote The Aeneid, detailing Rome’s connection to the Ancient Greek hero, Aeneas, and his family line. Aeneas is told to have founded early Rome and many of the rulers and emperors to come would claim lineage from Aeneas. Much of his other work is beautiful, but if you are not Classically inclined, it is possible to find them very very very very boring. For example, The Georgics is literally just about farming. Nevertheless, his poetry is profound and lasts the test of time, inspiring many famous writers of history and modernity, such as Shakespeare, Dante, Joyce and Tennyson to name but a few. He died in Brundisium, but he asked for his remains to be brought back to Naples, where this tomb was built to house him eternally. Except that it doesn’t… But just let that one slide, will ya. 

‘Villa Pignatelli Museum in Naples (1826)’ by Carlo Raso on Flickr
‘Large Mirror 19th century – Villa Pignatelli Museum in Naples’ by Carlo Raso on Flickr
‘Golden-bronze clock and candlesticks, 19th century – Villa Pignatelli Museum in Naples’ by Carlo Raso on Flickr

Villa Pignatelli 

So, this is a house-museum, aiming to take you back in time to when it would have been at its peak splendour: in 1897, in the hands of the Pignatelli Aragona Cortés family. Princess Rosina Pignatelli transformed the villa into a cultural hub for intellectuals and creatives. During their time, they collected marbles, candelabra, books, porcelain, clocks, silverware, and bronzes, all of which can be viewed by visitors today. This is thanks to Princess Rosina, who donated the museum to the Italian state in honour of her husband’s memory, under the condition that nothing should be separated from their collection. 
It is decorated in antique and exquisite furniture and furnishings, authentically reviving a time when this house would have been the height of lavish pleasure and excess. Incredibly Instagrammable, this house-museum will make you feel like a cast member of Beauty and The BeastThe Crown, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace all at once. And the GARDENS! Just stop  me right there. It’s truly stunning. Take a look at those photos

Museo Capella Sansevera

The Sansevero Chapel Museum is absolutely incredible. Just one look at that dizzying ceiling has me desperate to tour this marble-coated mausoleum. The chapel museum is home to the Veiled Christ (1753), a sculpture renowned for the skill of its sculptor, Giuseppe Sanmartino. This sculpture is one of the most famous in the world, it’s depiction of fabric through marble being astonishingly detailed and life-like. 

‘Castel dell’Ovo’ by Andres Alvarado on Flickr

Castel dell’Ovo 

The hilariously named Castel dell’Ovo, or Egg Castle, is situated on the island of Megaride in Naples. Legend has it that the castle got its name from an egg that the aforementioned Virgil hid in the dungeons of the castle. He placed this egg inside of a cage because, as the story goes, the fate of the castle rests with the fate of that very egg. It is a VERY silly story, but I absolutely love the idea of Virgil running around with an egg in a cage. Fantastic. Many Neapolitans, according to legend of course, really did believe Virgil when he told them their Fate rested on this magic egg. So, in 1370, Queen Joan of Anjou had to quell the public’s hysteria at the news that the egg had begun to fall apart by declaring the egg had been restored to its former magic-eggy glory. I told you, it’s just fantastic. 
It was on this island that Lucullus built his lush, sprawling villa and gardens after becoming insanely wealthy in Asia. This castle was also the site of much conflict, but because I rarely care for Medieval or Modern Warfare, you can Google that yourself, or click here

‘Naples’ by Michael Kogan on Flickr

Naples Underground

Naples harbours an incredible secret, 40-metres below its historic centre. It’s a secret that is over 2,500 years old and will blow your mind. Naples Underground is an underground tunnel system of tuffaceous cavities reaching as far back as the Ancient Greeks. The Romans later used these tunnels for building aqueducts. They excavated these tunnels in order to build a new city in the 4th-century BC, Neapolis. As a part of this unique underground tour, you can visit the World War II air-raid shelters, the remains of a Roman theatre, The War Museum and the Hypogeum Gardens, a vegetable garden which is growing deep underground in the bowels of Naples. 

‘Ischia’ by Marco d’Itri on Flickr

The Thermal Springs of Ischia 

Ischia is a volcanic island that has been visited for its hot springs and radioactive waters since the Ancient Greek & Roman times. But don’t stress; at low concentrations, this water is actually known for its healing properties. Nobody has claimed superhuman powers yet… But then again… I wouldn’t declare my Spidey Senses either… Hmm… 

Anyways, not only does it have beautiful hot springs, but Ischia has ancient ruins, beaches, geysers and even a castle! There is no real monopoly on the waters regarding ‘best’ pools to bathe in, though regulars may have their preferences and marketers will try their best to sway you. So, don’t feel you need to pay top dollar at the expensive resorts. There are a number of open public hot springs that anyone can dip in. (Check out this post for the best public spots!) An affordable access hotel or spa will also do. Apparently, these waters make your skin feel INCREDIBLE. I can’t wait to try it. (I promise to update all those interested when I finally make the trip.) 

Travelling around Naples 

Whatever you do, DO NOT DRIVE. I don’t drive anyways, and I love a good bus ride, but if you’re thinking of driving, I urge you to read through what Wanted In Rome have to say on the matter. Take the bus, or if you’re alright with a stroll, you can take the periphery trains and walk to where you need to be. Walking is worthwhile, considering Naples has the most preserved street plan from Ancient Roman times of any Italian city, or so they say. 

‘Naples’ by Carlo Raso on Flickr
‘Naples’ by Carlo Raso on Flickr 

And that’s the 411 on Naples! 

If you have any other hot tips and tricks, let me know! Hit up the comment box and give me your suggestions. 

Alla prossima, 

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

Sources:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/naples-underground

https://www.visitnaples.eu/en/neapolitanity/walk-naples/villa-pignatelli-history-and-culture-in-an-ancient-nineteenth-century-residence

https://www.catacombedinapoli.it/it

https://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/virgil.html

https://www.visitnaples.eu/en/neapolitanity/discover-naples/gaiola-underwater-park-the-marine-protected-area-of-naples

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/top-activities-things-to-do-97

https://www.tripsavvy.com/ischia-thermal-parks-and-healing-spas-1547082

https://www.ischiainsider.com/en/e/free-hot-springs-ischia

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/campania/naples

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/campania/naples/attractions/museo-archeologico-nazionale/a/poi-sig/422621/359879

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/campania/naples/attractions/catacombe-di-san-gennaro/a/poi-sig/422529/359879

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/25/camorra-child-gangsters-replace-omerta-with-social-media-boasting

https://www.wga.hu/html_m/g/grimald/tesoro3.html

https://www.comune.napoli.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/EN/IDPagina/1433

https://www.visitnaples.eu/en/neapolitanity/walk-naples/visit-naples-infos-and-tips-for-an-unforgettable-holiday

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/naples-italy-in-the-extreme-939/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/exhumation-ceremony-day-dead-history-family

https://www.visitnaples.eu/en/neapolitanity/tales-of-naples/the-wellness-of-the-ancient-thermal-sources-of-the-island-of-ischia

https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Tourism-g187785-Naples_Province_of_Naples_Campania-Vacations.html

Brundisium, Ostia, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata: What Pompeii Didn’t Tell You

Here’s a quick run down on Brundisium (Brindisi), Ostia Antica, Herculaneum and Ancient Oplontis (Torre Annunziata) for those brave enough to leave the Eternal City for a trip into antiquity.

First up… 

Brundisium

Nowadays, Brundisium is known as Brindisi. Found on the Adriatic coastline, south of Rome, this place is a must-see for all Classical Civilisation nerds like me. Despite there being sparse remaining archaeological ruins, there is a wealth of early-settler ceramics and artefacts which are fascinating and historically rich. 

‘Remake’ by Pierpaolo on Flickr

Ancient Brundisium

Brindisium has a long-standing connection with Rome, officially established as a colony of Rome in 247 BC. It was an important port city that is directly connected to the Ancient Appian Way. It was from here that armies launched their attacks into the South and East, playing a vital part in the Punic Wars (264-146 BC). I first encountered the city in Horace’s Satires Book 1 Satire 5, ‘Journey to Brundisium’ while studying for the Leaving Certificate exams. Following this, Brundisium arose again while I was studying the formidable reign of Emperor Augustus, Rome’s first emperor. The Treaty of Brundisium was signed between Marc Anthony, Augustus and Lepidus, in order to divide the territories of Rome amongst themselves, after years of brutal civil war. 


‘HN Italy 0737 Sextans, Brundisium Neptune Dolphin Boy lyre’ by Andrew McCabe on Flickr

Modern Brindisi

The city was bombed during the Second World War and has worked hard to rebuild itself, remaining an important port city for departures and arrivals to and from Greece and the Balkans. Brinidisi can be impressively hot, weatherwise, staying in the high 30℃’s (even reaching the 40℃’s) from May until October. There are countless restaurants and eateries there as well as the incredible historical sites, so you won’t starve or go without during your trip. 

Ostia

Ostia is another important port city for Ancient Rome located at the mouth of the Tiber river (Ostia being the Latin for ‘mouth’). It’s oldest discovered structure is that of the Castrum, a rectangular military structure dating between 396 and 267 BC.  
It continued to be an important military base, as a naval port, during the Punic Wars against Carthage, much like Brundisium. In the second century, however, its purpose changed and it became used more commonly for commercial reasons, its population expanding with its success as a military and commercial port. 

Ostia’ by reziemba on Flickr

I became interested in Ostia as a result of my studies of Marcus Tullius Cicero and Julius Caesar. In 63 BC, the Roman statesman and orator rebuilt the walls of Ostia after the city and port had been badly plundered and damaged. Julius Caesar later proposed and implemented, during his reign as Dictator, that the port town be used to transport grain, giving Rome more control of its food supply. I studied Cicero and Julius Caesar’s letters during my undergraduate degree and became fascinated by them both as political characters. 

‘Ostia’ by Hyspaosines on Flickr

Ostia is a greatly important archaeological site, with its buildings and art impressively preserved. Due to silting, the site itself no longer lies beside the sea, instead it is roughly 3km inland, yet still fairly close to the Tiber river. There are many impressive things to see within Ostia Antica, but one of the most fascinating is the Ostia Synagogue, one of the earliest, if not THE earliest synagogue identified in Europe so far! 

Modern Ostia

Modern Ostia is a beautiful seaside resort, and remains a popular place for Romans who want to escape to the seaside. It’s literally only a 20-minute train ride from the Piramide station, so it is perfect for those travelling to Rome on a short trip or those like me who are looking to travel to all of the important Ancient Roman sites. 

Ostia Antica’ by Bruno on Flickr

Herculaneum

Another victim of the Vesuvius eruption of AD 79, Herculaneum is an archaeological site a little further south of the famous Pompeii. It is lesser known than Pompeii, but is nonetheless an important site for the history and archaeological findings of Ancient Rome. Having suffered an earthquake in AD 62, Herculaneum had not managed to rebuild itself before it was covered by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius. However, due to the winds blowing during the eruption, Herculaneum was not impacted by the eruption as quickly as Pompeii, and many inhabitants managed to flee the town before the eruption became deadly and lava swallowed the surrounding cities. 

‘Herculaneum’ by Michael Gwyther-Jones on Flickr

Herculaneum became covered in a dense layer of volcanic matter, making excavation of the site extremely arduous, but also, managing to preserve the city to a remarkable level, where much of the wooden and organic materials managed to survive, such as boat parts, food, cloth, papyri and furniture. This revealed a great deal about the way the people of Herculaneum lived up until their untimely, tragic deaths. Most exciting, in my opinion, of these preserved relics of Ancient Herculaneum is that of the artwork. Paintings, sculptures, bronze work and pottery were all found in brilliant condition during the excavation of Herculaneum. The discoveries of Herculaneum indicate that it was a much wealthier town than Pompeii; a seaside resort for the Roman elites. This is supported by the many beautiful villas that have been fantastically preserved. 

‘Herculaneum’ by Chanel Wheeler on Flickr

Torre Annunziata or Ancient Oplontis

Torre Annunziata is located at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, a suburb of modern Naples, and was another town to be destroyed during its volcanic eruption. It is not as big or extensive an archaeological site as Pompeii or Herculaneum, however, it does have one of the richest Roman villas to have been excavated, known as the Villa of Poppaea.

‘Oplontis near Naples, Villa of Poppaea’ by Tierceron on Flickr
‘Oplontis – Hercules’ by Amphipolis on Flickr
‘Villa Poppaea of Oplontis’ by momo on Flickr

And that’s all folks! I will update you all about my actual lived experience touring these sites once I get to Rome and settle into my new neighbourhood. 

Do you think you’ll adventure to these Ancient Roman sites? Let me know if you do and tell me what your experiences were like! 

Alla prossima, 

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

———-

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brindisi
https://www.worldhistory.org/Brundisium/
https://www.thethinkingtraveller.com/italy/puglia/towns-and-cities-in-puglia/brindisi
https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Tourism-g187875-Brindisi_Province_of_Brindisi_Puglia-Vacations.html 
https://www.ostia-antica.org/intro.html 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostia_Antica
https://www.britannica.com/place/Ostia
https://archaeology-travel.com/travel-reports/visiting-ostia-antica/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herculaneum
https://www.worldhistory.org/Herculaneum/
https://www.britannica.com/place/Herculaneum 
https://www.britannica.com/place/Torre-Annunziata

Come Spendere Tutti i Tuoi Soldi or How to Spend All Your Money

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -47 (August 15, 2021)

Budgeting has to be one of the most boring, yet stressful, parts of moving away from your home-country. 

Luckily for me, I have no currency exchanges between Ireland (Irlanda) and Italy (Italia), with both countries using the Euro, but I still find myself struggling to figure out (per capire) how much I am likely to spend on any given month when I’m away. And so, my research began… (la mia ricerca è iniziata)

After a good long wander through countless blogs and websites (i siti web) about Rome pricing and expenses, I have compiled separate lists for budgeting which might be of use to you, whether you’re moving to Italy or any other country (qualsiasi altro paese). 

They are, as follows: 

  • Transport Costs 
  • Site and Entertainment Costs 
  • Monthly Expenditure (worst cases) 
  • One-off Expenses and Process Costs 
  • The Rough Weekly Budget 

So, first up, Transport Costs:

One way ticket (75 min valid) €1.50
Reg monthly pass€35
Reg annual pass €280
Taxi starting fare€4
Taxi fare per km€1.30
Taxi from airport to city Roughly €30-€50 (€30 from airport to Aurelian Walls)

So, what you decide to do about getting around Rome is another blog post in and of itself. However, suffice to say now that having a car is a complete waste of time and money (un perdita di tempo e denaro). Especially if you’re not leaving the city centre much, like I am. So, you’re gonna have to get comfortable with public transport (il trasporto pubblico).

Luckily for you and me, Rome is fairly well connected by Metro line and by buses, though the buses are somewhat notorious (famigorati) for being long, winding and messy. According to a few online sources, the Vatican bus (64) is known for its frequently reported pick-pocket and bag-robbing incidents, but it’s common sense (il buonsenso) to just have your wits about you regardless of what number bus you are on. Rome is known for its thieves. 

Compared to Dublin, where a bus ride of 45-minutes will cost you €3 at least, Rome is far cheaper to get around. It becomes even cheaper should you avail of the annual or monthly travel pass. It would be useful (sarebbe utile) also to look into the Roma Pass if you’re coming to Rome for just a weekend or a few days. This pass will get you into a good few museums and sites as well as giving you unlimited (illimatato) public transport access.

The Metro trains typically run from 5.30am until 11.30pm. There is limited service outside of these hours. 

And get comfortable walking (a passeggio). You will be walking a WHOLE lot. 

‘Metropolitana di Roma’ by Pom’ on Flickr

Next up… Site and Entertainment Costs:

PantheonFree
Appian Way WalkFree (unless you rent bike)
Saint Peter’s BasilicaFree (€5 to climb the dome)
Museo Nazionale Romano (combi ticket)€14
Museo Nazionale Etruscodi Villa Giulia€10
Basilica di San Clemente€10
Domus Aurea & Parco Archeologico del colosseo€12
Mausoleo di Augusto €4 
Ara Pacis (Can be seen for free from outside)€10.50
Trajan’s Column Free
Centrale Montemartini €10
Trevi FountainFree
Piazza NavonaFree 
Piazza di Santa Maria, TrastevereFree
Colosseum & Roman Forum (also includes Palatine Hill)€12
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel€16
Basilica of St. John LateranFree (cloisters – €8)
Capitoline Museum€15
La Galleria Nazionale€10 or maybe free? Unsure 
Galleria Borghese€11
Galleria Nazionale Barberini€10 or €2 for EU citizens (18-25)
Walking toursFree (but tip) or paid tours (€25-€40+)
Bike tour€35-€45
Basilica di Santa PrassedeFree
Il Cimitero Acattolico €5 min. contribution
Basilica of St. John LateranFree
Keats and Shelley’s House€6
Casa di Goethe€6
Monastery of the Friars Minor Capuchin of Via Veneto€8.50
Caserma dell’AeronauticaFree
Triumphs and LamentsFree
Ex Mira Lanza Museum Free
M. U. Ro Walking Tour €10

Here’s a short list of some of my favourite Roman sites. Some are more pricey (più costosi) than others, but these prices are excluding (escludendo) the reduced entrance fee available for students, children and the elderly. A good handful are free, and incredible, so if you find yourself absolutely broke and bored, there is still plenty to see in Rome. 

It might be worth your while, whether you’re going to live in Rome or whether you’re going for a quick city break, to get a Roma Pass. A 3-day pass is €36 and the 48-hour pass is €28. Both (entrambi) passes include unlimited travel on Roman public transport. 

Another useful thing to know is that state-run museums are free every 1st Sunday of the month between October and March (outside of the typical tourist seasons). Vatican museums are free (gratis) every last Sunday of the month. 

‘Vatican’ by Andrew Baldwin on Flickr

The Monthly Expenditure – Worst Case Scenarios

Groceries€200
Transport Pass€28 (280/10)
Cell Phone€10 
Misc. Emergency Money€50
Trips & Entertainment€25-€35
Eating/Drinking Out€320 (20×16)
TOTAL (excluding rent)€638

So, during my research, most expat and tourist websites came back saying that your rough living costs in Rome with rent excluded is roughly €800 p/m. To me, this seems extortionate (esorbitante), especially considering the fact that I don’t drink alcohol (non bevo alcolici), don’t really go on wild spending sprees, and don’t do a whole load of girly-girl maintenance things like nails, tan etc. that might spike up my prices. 

The budget list above is how much I roughly imagine I’d be spending at my absolute worst: eating out excessively, being wasteful (essere uno spreco) about my groceries, spending my emergency/essential cash each month frivolously, going to sites and expensive events every month. Because my rent is fairly high, I imagine I’ll be scrimping and saving every single cent I possibly can, so this figure prepares me to have a little cash ready for the bad months. Plan for the worst and do better, I always say. 

‘Monumental Nightlife’ by Cameron Adams on Flickr

Once-Off Expenses and Process Costs:

X-Stage Lite Pole €715 (Chrome) 
Shipping on pole€240 
Cleaning Supplies & Household Items€150
Taxi to and from Airport €50 each way (overestimate)
Medicine Stockpile €200 (rough est.)
Permesso Kit processing payment€50
Marca da Bollo sticker from Tabbacheria€16
Assicurata Postale (immig. tax)€30
Printing of permesso di soggiorno€30.46 
Total for Permesso di Soggiorno €126.46
TOTAL €1,331.46

So, this list is going to look very different for everyone (diverso per tutti). If you’re NOT interested in buying an expensive stage-pole to continue your wildly fun fitness dreams, then you can probably lob a hefty €955 off this expenses list for yourself. And if you’ve rented an unfurnished place in Rome, then you’re going to have to add a WHOLE load of extra sums to this table (But, be smart and use Facebook marketplace for freebies!). Take it as more of a reminder that moving countries involves a whole lot of extra expenses that I know I’d otherwise forget about. 

However, I decided I wouldn’t move impulsively (impulsivamente) to a completely different country on the back-wind of a complete mental breakdown (that is for a WHOLE different post lol) if I didn’t have at least my once-off expenses saved up and covered for, as well as my first month’s rent. For me, knowing these kind of ‘hidden’ costs is super important and I wanted to have the first few awful once-off things covered before I even get there, like knowing exactly how much is needed for the permit of residence (permesso di soggiorno) or certificate of residence (certificate di residenza)*. If you haven’t already planned out when you’re coming, you might need to add a margin for flight tickets and transport, and the hidden costs that sometimes crop up for travel (overweight check-in bags, last minute passport application etc.)

Sarah Jessica Parker’ by Shane Adams on Flickr 

* I will do a blogpost on the difference between both of these things and the absolute stress of trying to get them in Rome once I make it to the country. However, in the meantime, if you are like me and try your best to be incredibly organised, make contact with your home-countries Italian embassy and begin to make tracks for your tax code (codice fiscale). I will also be putting up a post about the Italian health service and travel insurance, so watch this space! 

And finally, The Rough Weekly Budget…

Coffee and pastry (breakfast)€5 x3 a week€15
Lunch (Groceries) (5 days)€15 a week €15
Lunch Out (2 days)€10-€15 a week (sit down fancyish)€5-€10 for ‘flying’ lunch€20-30
Dinner (Groceries) (nights)€20 a week€20
Dinner Out (2 nights) (not fancy)€15-25 x2 a week€30-€50
Gelato/Yummy Snacks out €2.50-5 x 2 a week€5-€10
Remainder Grocery Cash (personal care items etc.)€15 a week€15
A paid historic site/museum visit/cinema€5-€15 week x1€5-€15
TOTALBest Behaviour: €94 Worst Behaviour: €170

I wish I could say that this is a wholly inaccurate account of my day-to-day life, but before the pandemic (la pandemia) shoved us all into our homes, I spent most of my money here in Dublin on food (sul cibo). What isn’t spent on essentials goes straight into my mouth. In a city like Rome, where beautiful food is everywhere, I don’t fancy my chances of becoming any different. So, I must prepare for the worst case scenario (lo scenario peggiore). The answer to this blogtitle, how to spend all your money, is found here: Roman food. 

So I have made two possible totals: one where I’m on my best behaviour (sul mio miglior comportamento), making myself breakfast every day from scratch, eating lunch out at cheap places and having one modest dinner in a pizzeria. This comes to roughly under €100 with groceries and other self-care items factored in. If I’m being very bold and CBA to cook, going out three times a week, having breakfast out on occasion and eating lunch with friends (pranzare con gli amici), this weekly total sky rockets to €170. It is highly unlikely that I will be living this kind of life, however, if I DO decide to have a spoiler week, I know at least how much I should be walking away with at the end. 

‘La Scaletta’ by Yun Huang Yon on Flickr

And that’s the T on my Roman budgeting! 

I hope this has been somewhat useful to you in your plans to travel to or move to Rome. When I settle down in Rome, I will update this blog on my lived experience of budgets and expenses in Rome and try to catch for you all the hidden costs that may not be so obvious! 

Alla prossima, 

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

My Top Tips for SHMONEY:

  • Know Thy Self A.K.A. check your statements. If you have Revolut, they give you a handy breakdown of where you spend your money most. This is invaluable information about yourself! It might even give you the good slap on the wrist you need to start eliminating frivolous money expenditure and pad your savings account. That stage-pole isn’t gonna save up for itself, and perhaps it is actually NOT in your weekly budget to excessively drink coffee in town whenever you feel like it… Hard truths, but worth gold. Literally. 
  • No matter where you’re moving to, you can BET there are a number of ‘hidden’ costs involved. Whether it be a processing cost, a price for printing a medical form or a city-tax, you will want to be able to budget for these things too, and not be caught off guard (or fined further money!) Read up on ex-pat blogs, visitor pages, tourist information and the country’s own governmental websites regarding these costs. It is also a great idea to make contact with your country’s embassy in that country, where possible, and tell them of your plans and ask for their guidance through extra costs. This is even more important if you’re a non-EU resident looking to move into the EU. It is an absolute head wreck.

“Il Dolce Fare Niente” or The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -52 (August 10, 2021) 

What is ‘The Sweetness of Doing Nothing’, you ask? And what business has anyone in partaking of it?  

Well, why don’t YOU talk to my therapist (la mia terapista). Just kidding. 

But this is a real conversation I’ve been having back and forth with her for coming on six months (sei mesi). I apparently have absolutely no chill whatsoever. I cannot just sit down and do nothing (fare niente). Even sitting still for an entire movie is excruciating for me. I told you in blogpost one: I’m like a collie dog on acid. 

Usually, this is a fairly positive thing (una cosa positiva). It keeps me productive (produttiva) and capable of managing a wild amount of projects all at once. However, there is always the fear of a long-term burn-out that forces me to take a full week here or there to decompress (decomprimere) and do absolutely nothing. In these weeks, I rest and recuperate, forcing myself away from the laptop (il laptop) and off my emails (le mie email) so that I can ‘pick up all the balls’ again the following week. According to the professional, this is a bizarre way to live one’s life (un modo bizzarro di vivere) and I must find my own way of embracing the sweetness of doing nothing.

Each time I self-induce this state of rest, I find myself struggling to relax and relinquish the go-go-go attitude (la mia follia). Last week, I decided that I was having a ‘restoration weekend’ and forced myself to sit down and watch a full movie for what felt like the first time in years. Guess what I watched? You betcha… 

Eat, Pray, Love – Classic. 

 ‘how to shoot a graffiti’ by Tobias Begemann on Flickr

If you haven’t seen this film, which I hadn’t until last weekend, there’s this scene in the over-the-top drama of the film where Julia Robert’s character has moved herself to Rome after her marriage collapses and is learning how to love herself for herself. She meets a load of Italian friends (gli amici italiani) and they all try to teach her about this concept of ‘Il Dolce Fare Niente,’ as they think she cannot just let herself enjoy the pleasures of life. It’s super cliche, but I found it delightful. Especially this notion of ‘il dolce fare niente’. It reminded me of a particularly Irish notion of saying you’re doing ‘Absolutely Sweet F*&% All’ when you get time off work or are trying to make plans with friends. Nothing incites jealousy (la gelosia) from the working mind like a person who’s spending their day faffing about doing sweet FA. I’ve never been any good at it, but I aspire (io aspiro) to be able to just walk around the place having a ball and doing nothing in particular. 

Feeling like my therapist had just superimposed my crazy hectic approach to life onto this super cheesy film, I began to do my own research into it, not trusting the veracity (la veridicità) of Eat, Pray, Love as a source text. I wanted to know just how deeply ingrained into Italian life this idea of pleasure for pleasure’s sake, life for life’s sake, is, and why on earth it felt so foreign (estraneo) to me, even though I’ve secretly been dreaming about a SFA lifestyle every Monday since I’ve turned 18. 

I started with these questions: what does it even mean to just ‘do nothing’? How could there be a sweetness in what I had originally perceived must be a state of laziness (la pigrizia) or boredom (la noia)? 

 ‘il dolce fare niente. El Panteó, Roma, agost 2008’ by Xavi on Flickr

To define Il Dolce Fare Niente, Merriam-Webster describes it as a “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.” This gives off this fairly lazy/narsed impression that I had originally garnered from the phrase and not the fantastically self-nurturing notion of Eat, Pray, Love. Other alternatives are even less poetic, with ‘pleasant idleness’ or ‘pleasing inactivity.’

At its core, the principle goal, as I understand it, is to be present, acknowledging and appreciating the moment as it passes. Whether you are having this moment in the sunshine on a balcony with a cigarette (su un balcone con una sigaretta) or whether its lashing down rain and you have luckily bagged a seat under a canopy, enjoying an aperitivo. It is to be present and to take in what is going on around you, right now (proprio adesso), right here (giusto qui). To enjoy your life as it is right now. Do nothing (Fare niente); it’s not a moment about you. It’s a moment about time, about space, and your place within the puzzle of the world. So you’re not really doing nothing, but you’re not allowed to become so preoccupied (diventare così preoccupato) doing something that you lose sight of the fact that you’re alive; right now, right here. 

 ‘rome’ by Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

However, that doesn’t mean the Italians actually consider this phrase as a sacred part of being Italian. Really, this is just what Western/American media has created as a notion of Italian-ness, in films like the aforementioned Eat, Pray, Love. Kind of like la dolce vita, it is a romantic notion about Italy and Italian living, but not always a reflection of the everyday thought-processes or living conditions of the modern day average Italian. 

Rome’ by Nick Kendrick on Flickr

This doesn’t mean there is nothing to be gained from the concept! Far from it. If anything, I think it is best to consider ‘il dolce fare niente’ as something to aspire towards in your everyday life. To take at least a few minutes of everyday to reflect (per riflettere) on yourself, your life, where you are and what is beautiful in that exact moment, right then and there. 

What is so alluring about this clichéd notion of Italian-ness for me is just how difficult I find it to do nothing anywhere but Rome. Rome is full of delicious food (il cibo delizioso), gorgeous architecture (la splendida architettura) and beautiful artworks (le belle opere d’arte) that make it so easy to be consciously present in the moment and pleasantly idle while you soak in the beauty around you, sipping your morning coffee (il tuo caffè mattutino) or just sitting upon the Spanish Steps. 

Embracing ‘il dolce fare niente’ in Dublin? Somewhat more difficult for me; not impossible, but difficult. I don’t even want to imagine how a New Yorker would cope with the concept as a city that seems to spiral around itself in its own orbit; in its own concept of time. 

‘Streets of Dublin’ by Wojtek Kogut on Flickr

But I’m going to try incorporate this idea into my life a bit more now and when I am in Rome. My therapist and the KitKat bars that have been calling me from the cupboard (la credenza) are right. 

Sometimes, you just got to have a break from the mind and step into the now (entra nel presente). 

Alla prossima, 

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

Here are my top tips for doing Sweet F*$% All: 

  • If you’re like me, when you have a deadline overhanging your head then that is all you’ll think about for the foreseeable future. Get whatever work is most pressing out of the way or actually set a time in the future, within reasonable timeframe, in which the work is going to be done. Then you can go and enjoy your time in the now, and not accidentally slip forward into the next week worrying about what is to be done. There’s a plan, so stick to it!
  • Playtime is as important as work. You have to nurture that side of yourself or else you will absolutely lose the run of yourself and go stir-crazy. Schedule in some time where you get to be present, be in your body, and engaging with others. For me, this is pole classes, hoop classes or climbing with friends. They are my lifeline in crazy busy times, where no matter what is looming, I will make sure that I have given myself these outlets for fun.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself if you are still struggling to enjoy ‘doing nothing’. Changing ways of thinking is incredibly taxing and difficult, and it won’t happen the first time you try. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time.

Il “cheat sheet” delle frasi italiane: tutto quello che devi sapere per falsificarlo OR The Cheat Sheet of Italian Phrases: All You Need To Know To Fake it

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -63  (July 30, 2021) 

Worried about not having Italian under your belt yet? 

No problem! (Nessun problema!)

I’ve got you covered. This blog post has most of the things you’re gonna need to know in certain situations (in certe situazioni) to get you out of hot water (le difficoltà) or to appear as though you can speak Italian fluently (parlare italiano fluentemente), you just choose not to. 
I will be updating this post with more phrases as I learn, so feel free to check back soon to learn more! 
You can learn these phrases off by heart (puoi imparare a memoria) in a painful reel like your schooldays or you can do what I do: 

1) Copy and paste these lists into your own documents in their categories.


2) Print these sheets off and stick them to prominent spaces in your house. I put mine on the backs of doors (le porte), on mirrors (gli specchi), hanging off shelves I use everyday etc. You could even put a screenshot of some of these phrases as your home-screen on your phone or laptop. 

(This is also how I learn everyday vocabulary (vocabolario quotidiano); literally sticky notes EVERYWHERE)


3) Before you get to open a door, look in the mirror, reply to a text, whatever it is, read and repeat to yourself the phrases or words you’re going to need. (This can even be counting in Italian 0-10, or 20, 30, 40… so on)


4) Pretend you’re trying to buy something in a shop and need to know what size it is, or asking a waiter if there is milk as an ingredient, or to just quickly apologise to someone you’ve bumped into. These are the everyday things that will get you feeling more and more comfortable in your spoken Italian. Try to recall what you already know, or try to speak around it. If you can’t, whip up the sheet and rehearse the ‘scene’ again. 


When I first started learning Italian, I lacked motivation (la motivazione). It just seemed an absolutely mammoth task to learn a whole new language. So, I looked for some free resources to help me get my foot in the door…

FutureLearn have (or at least had at time of writing) a great course on Beginners Italian ran by the University for Foreigners of Siena. I found this really useful for getting started and picking up some elementary vocabulary and phrases. Some of these phrases can be found below. 


Duolingo, of course, is great for developing your language skills and building vocabulary. However, I wouldn’t recommend only using Duolingo to learn. Italian is a complicated language (L’italiano è una lingua complicata) to begin with, and I found that Duolingo lacks a lot of clarity (molta chiarezza) in why Italian grammar functions as it does. It marries well with doing a grammar-based course alongside, but I think if I were to have relied solely on Duolingo, I’d have really struggled to get a basic functioning level of Italian. 


A textbook I really enjoy using is Language Hacking: A Conversation Course for Beginners by Benny Lewis. It is a no-nonsense approach to learning languages where what you learn is really what you will use in real life. He also recommends to develop personal scripts to practice which is the method that I find most useful (il più utile) for developing fluency in language learning. 

Okay, now to the good stuff… 

Meeting New People and Introductory Phrases: 

Greetings: 

– Ciao        (Hi/Bye)

– Buongiorno        (Good morning [used till 12pm])

– Buonasera        (Good Evening)

– Buona Notte        (Good night)

– Piacere        (Pleasure to meet you)    

– Piacere mio!        (The pleasure is mine)

– Come va?        (How’s it going?)        

– Come stai?        (How’s it going?)

– Come te la passi?        (What’s up with you?)                

– Salve!        (Hi)

– Bene/male        (Good/bad)        

– Sto bene/sto male        (It’s going good/bad)   

– Molto bene, grazie        (Very good thank you)    

– Tutto bene, grazie        (All good, thank you)

– Non molto bene, grazie        (Not great, thanks)     

– Così e così        (So so)

– Non c’è male, grazie        (Not too bad, thanks)

– Abbastanza bene, grazie        (Grand, thanks)

– E tu?        (And you?) [The ultimate phrase for me! Nothing says ‘fluent’ like bouncing a question back lol]

Farewells:

– Ciao        (bye)

– Arrivederci        (Goodbye)

– A dopo        (See you later)

– A domani        (See you tomorrow)

– Alla prossima        (See you next time) 

– A presto        (See you soon)

– Ci vediamo!        (We’ll see each other again)

Apologies and Polite Responses/Requests:

– Mi dispiace!        (I’m sorry!)

– Spiacente        (Sorry) [formal]

– Grazie mille        (Thanks a million)

– Molte grazie        (Many thanks)

– Grazie tanto        (Thanks so much)

– Prego!        (You’re welcome/No problem/Ready?)    

– Di niente!        (It’s nothing!) 

– Nessun problema        (Not a problem!)  

– Certo!        (Certain!/Of course!)

– Va bene        (Very well)     

– Più piano, per favore?        (Slower please)

– Tranquilla!        (No worries)  

– Capisco/Non capisco        (I understand/I don’t understand)

– Mi dispiace, ma non parlo bene l’italiano        (Sorry, but I don’t speak Italian well)

– Puoi ripetere, per favore?        (Could you repeat that please?)

– Non lo so        (I don’t know)

– Ecco!        (That’s it)

– Allora        (Well/Okay)

– Forse        (Maybe) 

– Aspetta un momento, per favore        (Please wait a minute)

– Che bello/a!        (How lovely!)

– Stupendo/a!        (Great!)     

– Che figata!        (How cool!)  

– Magnifico/a        (Magnificent!)

– Sei brava/bravo!        (You’re great!)

– Caspita!        (Wow!)

– Non proprio        (Not exactly)

– Mi dispiace tantissimo!        (I’m so sorry!)   

– Mi scusi        (Excuse me) 

– Senta, scusi        (I beg your pardon)       

– Che cosa?!        (What?!)

– Che hai detto?        (What did you say?) (informal)

– Scusi, come? (What did you say?) (più formale)

– Ma figurati!        (Don’t mention it) 

– Non c’è problema        (Not a problem)

– Davvero?        (Really?)

– Sul serio?        (Seriously?)

– Scusa per il disturbo/per il ritardo        (Sorry to disturb/for being late)

– Mi dispiace, ma non lo so dov’è        (Sorry, but I don’t know where it is)

– Dici seriamente?        (You’re serious?)

– Veramente?        (Really?)

– Mi dispiace ma non ti sento        (I’m sorry but I can’t hear you)

– Torno subito!        (Back soon)

– Permesso        (When passing others on street or entering a home) 

– Dov’è il/la….        (Where is the…?)

– Dov’è il bagno?        (Where is the bathroom?)

– Dov’è il biglietteria?        (Where is the ‘ticket-shop’?)

– Dov’è la stazione?        (Where is the station?) 

– Per favore, puoi dirmi…        (Please, can you tell me…) 

At The Shops or Restaurant/Bar:

– Quanto costa?        (How much does it cost?)

– Quali sono?        (Which are they?)

– Cos’è?        (What is it?)

– Com’è?        (How is it?)

– Sai dov’è…?        (Do you know where..)

– A che ora apre/chiude?        (What time does it open/close?) 

– È chiuso/aperto?        (It is closed/open?)

– Che ore sono?        (What time is it?)

– Il negozio        (The store)

– Voglio comprarla        (I want to buy it)  

– Voglio comprare…        (I want to buy…)     

– Non ho bisogno di questo        (I don’t need this)

– Mi servono        (I need…)

– Eccoqui        (Here you go)

– Devo pagare/Dobbiamo pagare        (I must pay/we must pay)

– Posso/Possiamo pagare a Lei o devo/dobbiamo andare alla cassa?        (Is it possible to pay you or must I/we go to the till to pay?)

– Quant’è?        (How much is it?)

– ___ di resto        (__ of change)

– Sono sette euro cinquante        (It is €7.50)

– Che cosa prendi?        (What will you have?)

– Prendo…        (I’ll have…)

– Sconto        (Discount)

– Il bancomat        (The credit card)

– Posso pagare con il bancomat?        (Can I pay by card?)

– Vi posso aiutare?        (Can I help you?)

– Puoi aiutarmi?        (Can you help me?)

– Che taglia porta?        (What size do you wear?)

– Lo posso provare?        (Can I try it on?)

– Posso provare questo vestito?        (Can I try on this dress?)

– Quella è la cabina        (That is the dressing room)

– Come mi sta?        (How’s it on me?)

– Molto carina        (Very pretty)

– Compro        (I buy)

– Avete il gelato al cioccolato?        (Have you chocolate ice cream?)

– Avete un momento?        (Have you a moment?)
– Le misure        (The measurements)

– Centimetri        (Centimetres)

– Un grammo        (A gram)

– I grammi        (The grams)

– Un litro di/d’        (A litre of)

– Un metro        (A metre)

– Un chilogrammo di/d’        (A kilogram of)

– Un miglio        (A mile)

– Un quarto        (A quarter)

– Un chilometro        (A kilometre)

– Un po’ di..        (A little bit of)

– Un quarto del totale        (A quarter of the total)

– Non ho niente        (I have nothing) 

– Vorrei mezzo chilo di…        (Can I have ½ a kilo of…) –

Poi?        (Then?)

– Volevo anche di …        (I would also like some) 

– Questo un po’più caro        (This is a bit expensive)

– Questo un po’più economico        (This is a bit cheaper)

– Fatto in casa        (Homemade) 

– Va bene questa?        (Is this good?)

– E dove lo trovo?        (& where can I find it?)

– Lo scaffale        (The shelves) 

– Basta così        (That’s enough)

– Etto/Etti        (100g)

– Bottiglia/bottiglie        (Bottle/s)

– Pacco        (Packet)

– Lattina        (Can)

– Cosa offre il menu?        (What does the menu offer?)

– Sono allergico ai latticini e alle uova e l’olio di colza        (I am allergic to dairy and eggs and rapeseed oil)

– Non posso mangiare il latte, il formaggio, l’uovo o l’olio di colza        (I cannot eat milk, cheese, eggs or rapeseed oil)    

– Senza glutine, per la persona che è allergica al glutine        (Without gluten, for the person who is allergic to gluten)

Questions and responses for making plans:

-Che fai per questo fine settimana?        (What are you doing this weekend?) 

– Sì        (Yes)

– No        (No)

– Cosa fai stasera?        (What are you doing tonight?) 

– Ti va venire alla cena con me?        (You want to go for dinner with me?) 

– Sono libero/a stasera        (I am free tonight) 

– Vuoi venire al cinema con me?        (You want to go to the cinema with me?)

– Dov’è populare?        (Where is popular?) 

– Non sono interessato/a        (I am not interested)

– Non posso stasera, ma la sera prossima?        (I can’t tonight but tomorrow night?)

– Proveró se abbia tempo        (I try if I have time) 

Why are you in Italy? Why Rome? 

– Voglio imparare l’italiano perché…        (I want to learn Italian because…)

– Voglio parlare una bella lingua        (I want to speak a beautiful language)

– Voglio capire la cultura italiana        (I want to understand the Italian culture)

– Voglio vivere e lavorare in Italia nel futuro        (I want to live and work in Italy in the future)

– Per me, le antiche civiltà sono molto interessante/affascinante        (For me, the ancient civilisations are very interesting/fascinating)

– La cultura è diversa qui        (The culture is different here)

– Dopo, vorrei imparare il latino e il greco antico. Forse, anche dopo, imparei l’arabo         (Later, I wish to learn Latin and Ancient Greek. Maybe, even later, I will learn Arabic)

– E per il cibo italiano, certo!        (And for the Italian food, of course!)

Numbers 1-19

– zero (0)

– uno (1)

– due (2)

– tre (3)

– quattro (4)

– cinque (5)

– sei (6)

– sette (7

– otto (8)

– nove (9)

– dieci (10)

– undici (11)

– dodici (12)

– tredici (13)

– quattordici (14)

– quindici (15)

– sedici (16)

– diciassette (17)

– diciotto (18)

– diciannove (19)

– venti (20)

Compound Numbers and Tens

– ventuno (21)                 [venti (20)]

– ventidue (22)

– trentatré (33)                 [trenta (30)]

– quarantaquattro (44)     [quaranta (40)]

– cinquantacinque (55)    [cinquanta (50)]

– sessantasei (66)             [sessanta (60)]

– settantasette (77)           [settanta (70)]

– ottantotto (88)               [ottanta (80)]

– novantanove (99)          [novanta (90)]

– cento (100)

This may seem like a huge chunk, but like I said, take the phrases you’re most likely to use and create a script for yourself in a new document.

If you’re going to be in Italy for a holiday with friends (con amici), you’re probably not going to need to know the vast majority. But if, like me, you can already envision yourself getting lost on your way back home from Trastevere, or finding yourself in need of an Italian-speaker in the grocery store (il negozio di alimentari) to discern what is in the products (i prodotti), then I urge you to build your own scripts. 

A Litttttle Extra…

I have prepared below some phrases to learn and listen to because you might be asked by an Italian authority (un’autorità italiana) for your passport (il tuo passaporto) or relevant documents during your stay. As I will be enrolled in a language learning programme throughout my stay in Rome, I have prepared a few extra scripts for when I am inevitably thrust into an awkward speed-friending exercise within the first few lessons. Adapt my scripts to suit your needs, and hey presto, you’re good to go! 

Introductions and essentials for travel:

– Mi chiamo Ciara OR Sono Ciara        (My name is Ciara OR I am Ciara)

– Sono Irlandese di Dublino        (I am Irish from Dublin)

– Adesso, vivo/abito a Roma        (Now, I live/I live in Rome)

– Ho ventitre anni        (I am twenty three years old)

– Il mio compleanno è il ___ ottobre        (My birthday is the ___ of October)

– Faccio la scrittrice        (I work as a writer) –

Quando ero all’università, ho studiato la letturatura inglese        (At Uni, I studied English Literature)

– Sopratutto, la letteratura per bambini        (Especially, Children’s Literature)

– Spero che sia ______ nel futuro        (I hope to be _____ in the future) 

– Il numero del mio cellulare/telefono è zero, zero, tre, cinque, tre…        (My phone number is 00353…)

– Il mio indirizzo e-mail è ______ (chiocciola – @) gmail punto com        (My email address is ____@gmail.com)

– C’è il mio passaporto/il mio documento di identità        (It is my passport/my identity document)

– Una mascherina        (face mask)

– Disinfettante per le mani        (hand sanitiser) 

– Il tuo nome è sulla domanda?        (Is your name on the application?) 

– Come scrivo il tuo cognome?        (How do I write your surname?) 

My Hobbies and Interests, Likes and Dislikes: 

– Quando ho tempo…        (When I have time)

– Mi piace fare ginnastica e esercizi calistenici        (I like to do gymnastics and callisthenics)

– Mi piace andare al cinema o al teatro        (I like going to the cinema or theatre)

– Mi piace visitare i musei perché io ho studiato la storia antica all’università e mi piace vedere l’arte antica        (I like to visit the museums because I studied ancient history at Uni and I like to see the ancient art

– Sono appassionata di pole-dancing        (I am passionate about pole dancing)

– Ho iniziato quasi due anni fa ed è stato incredibile per la mia salute mentale e fiscale        (I started almost 2 years ago and it has been incredible for my mental and physical health)

– Non bevo l’alcool ma bevo le bevande analcoliche quando sono al bar        (I don’t drink alcohol but I drink nonalcoholic drinks when I’m at the bar)

– Mi piace fare i miei propri abbigliamenti        (I like to make my own clothes)

– Non sono una sarta professionale ma trovo l’attività piacevole        (I am not a professional seamstress but I find the activity enjoyable)

I hope you find these phrases and script-blocks useful! Remember, I’ll be updating this blog post as I go through my script-building process, so check back for more useful Italian phrases.

Alla prossima!

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

Here are my top tips: 

  • Fill your script with phrases that are going to be helpful in a messy, unprepared situation, like mi dispiace ma non capisco or non parlo l’italiano. Parlete inglese? These can help you while you’re out in the big bad world and not expecting to be spoken to. 
  • Practice with a friend if you can, or sign up to a language swap course. There are plenty of Italian speakers who would like to improve or learn English (if that is what you speak!) that you could negotiate a swap-for-swap with. 
  • If you can’t remember the word (la parola) for something, do as Benny Lewis suggests, and try to work your way around the word. If I don’t know the word for ‘sweater’ (una maglia) I would say, la cosa…. Lo metto quando ho freddo… In this way, I have said to the person I am speaking to that I am looking for the word (by hesitating and saying, ‘a thing…’) and then offering the person an associated action to help me to find the word (‘I put it on when I’m cold). In this way, you can pick up new vocabulary, but not panic and fall back into English-thinking. 

Un Appartamento Tutto Suo or An Apartment of One’s Own

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -66  (July 26, 2021) 

How to find a home in Rome when you have literally no idea where you want to be or what you want to do or who you even are half the time

Do you ever have those moments that fill you up instantly with an overwhelming sense of dread? 

Well, this morning, I had one of those moments (momenti). My soon-to-be landlady (la proprietaria) called me and I missed it. Completely convinced that I had just lost the apartment (un appartamento) that I have been dreaming about living in for weeks now, I called her back and anxiously chewed at my fingernails (le mie unghie), each ring causing my stomach to flip-flop. 

Turns out, I’m deeply paranoid (no surprises there!) She was just calling to double-check that, even with the COVID-19 case numbers rising all over the world, I would still be coming in October to take up residency. I admit my response was embarrassingly too eager (troppo ansioso) and most certainly not very ‘la bella donna figa‘ of me. But it got me thinking, maybe I should write up how I found my apartment… and some of the vocabulary (il vocabolario) I’ve learned on apartment-living. 

So, lets begin. 

Firstly, I lay the disclaimer that by the time I decided to move (cambiare casa) to Rome, I had already been to the city three (tre) or four (quattro) times and I’m fairly confident in my ability to potter around the city centre and main tourist areas. But Rome is a big city (una grande città), especially compared to my home-city, Dublin. Finding out where is safest (più sicuro); where has good amenities (i buoni servizi) and transport options (le opzioni di transporto); where I can be close to the centre but not too close (vicino al centro città ma non troppo vicino); these are things best left to the Romans to know. 

So, I asked a great family friend and, somewhat nervously, asked an ex’s housemate, both of whom are Romans, where they recommended to live for a young woman who is fairly feisty and strong, but does not really feel like being harassed (essere molestata) or predatorily pursued on a daily basis (una base quotidiana). 

First piece of advice is: 


Know about your transport routes and where you’d like to be based. This will determine where you can even consider moving to. Public transport in Rome can be quite a disaster (un disastro) and nobody wants to spend their time moving from bus-to-bus, metro-to-metro everyday because they did not check their routes before renting, so make sure to do some research before you go. 

Living on the metro line can be a complete life-saver (un salvavita). I chose to live fairly close to one, however, I was not clever enough to ensure that I didn’t have a massive highway to cross in order to get there… But, you win some, you lose some (ne vinci un po’ne perdi un po’). Said highway has many, many bus routes to the city centre and to the outskirts, so I will pick my transport battles as they come. 

It is not a great idea (non è una buona idea) to live very, very close to Termini. It can be quite dangerous at night, not to mention very busy and loud, considering it’s the main transport hub in the city. Best to avoid it, but this is not limiting your options really! As you will see below, there are plenty of options to suit where you need to be located in the city with loads of enticing reasons to stay in those particular neighbourhoods. 

Suggested Neighbourhoods and Areas

Luca’s List (La Lista di Luca): 
Trastavere, Appio e Tuscolano, Garbatella, Ostiense, EUR, Flaminio, Rione Monti, Monteverde, Prati.

Picture courtesy of Luca

Luca also recommends living between the arrows on the A and B lines of the metro. A clever way of being close to a metro (vicino alla metro) and also being in a safe, central neighbourhood (un quartiere/rione sicuro e centrale). Genius. 

Annachiara’s List (La Lista di Annachiara):
Prati, Delle Vittorie, Flaminio, Trastevere, Testaccio.

So, let’s have a look at some of their choice picks…

The Prati Report – Il Rapporto di Prati

So, Prati is pretty pricey (caro). And by that, I mean VERY pricey. It’s one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Rome and is home to a lot of high-end branded shops (negozi). But with that said, it is also incredibly beautiful – there is a reason the wealthy want to live here. Prati boasts a location (un posto) right beside the Castel Sant’Angelo as well as the Vatican and sits itself beautifully on the west banks of the Tiber. It is positively bursting with edgy (spigoloso), cool bars and night venues, as well as restaurants (i ristoranti), cafes (i caffè) and eateries (le trattorie). 

Your choice of Prati-serving metro stations are Lepanto and, a little farther away, Ottaviano. Across the Tiber, you have the Flaminio neighbourhood too, and the metro stop there (more on Flaminio below.)

You’re roughly looking at paying between €500-€1,000 a month for a room in a Prati apartment or student residence. You’re looking at anywhere between €850-€3,500 a month for an entire apartment (though you could make this affordable if you’re willing to share an apartment with close friends or two couples.) 

Photo credits: ‘Prati & Monte Mario viewed from the rear deck of Casa Accoglienza Paolo Vi, ROME 2011 – Olympus’ by Jeffrey F. Nunes on Flickr

The Flaminio Report – Il Rapporto di Flaminio

Flaminio can be found north of the city centre, on the opposite bank of the Tiber to Prati. It is serviced by a tramline as well as the Flaminio metro stop, almost equidistance from the river as the Lepanto stop is in Prati. 

Flaminio is the perfect location, in my opinion, if you want to tour the usual spots with relative ease. It’s in close proximity to famous sites such as the Villa BorgheseThe Spanish StepsThe Piazza del Popolo and also the Teatro Olimpico. It’s also incredibly easy to get to other historical and cultural sites a little south of Flaminio, such as the Fontana di TreviPiazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Imperial Forum. It also has some lesser known sites, like the Santa Maria del Popolo which houses 2 Caravaggio paintings and the Ponte Milvio, an historical bridge from the Roman Empire under Constantine I. 

Expect to pay anything between €450-€800 a month for a room in Flaminio or between €800-€2000 for a place by yourself (but again, some of these apartments are 3-bed, and could easily be shared between close friends or couples!)

Photo credits: ‘Ponte Milvio #2’ by  Francesco Paroni Sterbini on Flickr
Photo credits: sbmeaper1 on Flickr 

The Trastevere Report – Il Rapporto di Trastevere

Just below (sotto) Prati and somewhat opposite (parallelo) the Tiber to Flaminio, you have the Trastevere neighbourhood. Formerly a working-class area, Trastevere is a hidden gem (una gemma nascosta) and is affectionately labelled as ‘Rome’s favourite neighbourhood’ by Lonely Planet

It has an edge to it with graffiti (graffiti) and street art (arte di strada) covering its walls. Some find this awfully off-putting; I, however, am a big lover of things being ‘lived-in’ – the perfect (perfetto) white-walled neighbourhood is not where I will be found. This edginess feeds the incredible atmosphere of Trastevere too, with markets, artisan shops and fantastic eateries. It’s a great location, being central to many of the ancient and historical tourist sites in Rome, but retains its own modern vibe. 

It’s most well-known site is arguably the Basilica di Santa Maria. There is a tram route running straight through Trastevere towards the Imperial Forum and other famous sites, as well as the Trastevere railway station. However, you are going to have a fair walk to the nearest metro station, so if you need to be across the city every single morning and don’t like to walk, this may not be the place for you. Your closest stations are across the Tiber, with the Piramide metro stop or the Circo Massimo metro stop. 

Expect to pay between €750-€1,900 if you’re wanting a full apartment to yourself here. If you’re happy to rent a room or rent out of student residences, prices fall roughly at €400-750 a month. 

Photo credits: Karl Köhler on Unsplash

The Testaccio Report – Il Rapporto di Testaccio 

Arguably one of the trendiest (di moda) places to live in the city, Testaccio sits on the east banks of Tiber, almost opposite Trastevere (it’s just a litttttle bit south) and just above Ostiense (more on this deadly** place later.) Testaccio was a fairly modern (moderno) build, comparative to the more central neighbourhoods. Historically (storicamente), this was an area inhabited by poor farmers and labourers, as land was cheap (economico) (read: it was constantly being flooded by the Tiber.) However, the area was ‘rebooted’ during the 19th century in order to house Ostiense’s industrial workers and ever since, has gone from strength to strength***. 

Serviced by a city tram as well as by the Piramide metro stop, Testaccio is a great place to live if you need to be close to the centre, but not too close. There is plenty to see in Testaccio, such as the Pyramid of Cestius, the Fontana delle Anfore as well as the MACRO, a museum of contemporary art (I told you – it’s artsy now.) There is also the brilliant Testaccio Marketplace. My favourite place in this area that I am DYING to return to is the Tram Depot, a small tram-turned-bar nestled into the side of a green area.

Rent is roughly around €400-€700 for a room or a studio apartment. On the bright side, renting a whole apartment to yourself is more affordable than the above neighbourhoods, with rent coming in between €500-€1,200. Between two friends sharing or three friends in a 3-bed, it really can be astonishingly cheap (I’m from Dublin, where currently the average rent is around €2,150 for the fancy parts and €1,800 for the shabbier parts.)

**deadly, as in cool or class, not as in dangerous or lethal. I won’t apologise for being Irish but I do apologise for the confusion that is more than likely going to occur from Irish slang in this blog series. 


***This is a semi-tongue-in-cheek way for me to say it has undergone some gentrification (gentrificazione), from a traditionally working-class area to one very popular with tourists (i turisti), the young (il giovane), and the artsy (l’artistico). 

Photo credits: Andreas Kaiser on Unsplash

The Ostiense Report – Il Rapporto di Ostiense

And finally, my own personal choice – Ostiense. Located just south of Testaccio, Ostiense is just far enough away from the madness (la follia) of the city centre but close enough to hop on a bus (l’autobus) and be in within half an hour (usually) or if you like the journey on foot (a piedi), just over an hour.    

Ostiense was at the centre (il centro) of the industrial expansion that resulted in the urban renewal of Testaccio and Ostiense itself. It was home to a working power-plant (la centrale elettrica) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The same building (lo stesso edificio) now houses the Centrale Montemartini, a must-see, lesser visited (comparative to the Trevi Fountain and its like) museum (il museo) that houses some of the incredible sculptures (le sculture) and works of art from the Capitoline Museum. This creates a fascinating (affascinante) counter-play effect between ancient art and urban, grungy industrial machinery. 

Ostiense is also well-known for its street-art and painted murals (i murales), which again, creates an incredible contrast between industrial buildings (gli edifici industriali) and modern, vibrant art. Ostiense also boasts the impressive Eataly, housed in the abandoned Air Terminal building right near the Ostiense railway station (la stazione ferroviaria). It is a renowned food market (il mercato alimentare), serving the best of local and seasonal Italian produce (i prodotti italiani di stagione). In this area, there are some of the edgiest, more urban bars (il bar) and clubs (le discoteche) than you’d find in central Rome. It is also just off Via Ostiense that you will find Romeow Cat Bistrot (save it to your ‘must-go list’. Absolutely adorable and you can best believe I will live in this place).

Serviced by the Piramide, Garbatella, Marconi and the Basilica San Paolo metro stops and the Ostiense train station, Ostiense is considerably well-connected and easy to get around. And if you’re really feeling like a bus-ride, Ostiense is bordered in by the Cristoforo Colombo highway (l’autostrada), where you can jump on one of the many of the buses that take you to Termini. 

Renting in Ostiense comes to the rough estimates of €275-€500 a month for a single room or a room in student residency. For a full apartment to yourself? Rent ranges from around €750-€1,000 for a studio apartment and from €950-€1,900 at the very upper end of the scale, but again, most of these apartments are 2+ bedrooms, so rent can be split between couples or friends sharing. 

Photo credits: ‘il nuotatore’ by Bruno on Flickr

And that’s the 411 on Roman Neighbourhoods.

Hopefully this has helped you to narrow down your hunt for a home in Rome. This list is by no means exhaustive and there are definitely other exciting and interesting places to live that I haven’t mentioned here, however, I hope it gives you a small bubble of joy to read about the city and what Rome has in store for those who visit, or who, like me, become so enthralled they decide to pack up and hightail it to the Eternal City. 

See you in the Romeow Bistrot! 

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

Here are my top tips: 

  • If you do find a place you love, on a website you trust, and have slapped your deposit down ASAP – get in touch with your landlord/landlady and say hi. Start the communication early and tell them a bit about yourself, why you’re coming to Rome and what you’re like as a tenant. It’s always nice to know who’s coming to live in your spaces. 
  • Try to rent somewhere close to the metro lines where possible. Rome can be a dodgy place after dark, like all big cities, and it’s always good to be a short walk from the station or bus route to your place. 
  • Do what I did and ask your Roman friends! They’ll have great insights about the city that only those who grew up or lived there could know. 
  • Once you’ve found a place you like, take a Google Maps walk around your neighbourhood and orientate yourself in the space. It puts the fun in functional time-use lol. 

[All prices are averages or medians of available apartments from websites such as HousingAnywhere and SpotAHome during time of writing]

Tesoro Irlandese e La Bella Donna Figa

Tesoro Irlandese: Day – 70 (July 19, 2021) 

There are two things that are arguably evident from my choice of blog title and the content of this first post:

1) I cannot speak Italian (yet) 

2) I have a raging, unstoppable sense of self-confidence (arroganza) that has, to this point, barrelled me through life without a moment to stop and annusare le rose. 

Most people who know me would agree (essere d’accordo) with these two things; the second perhaps with more fervour than the first, as I have slowly began to make inroads into learning l’italiano, but in my wondrous & sage sobriety, I have become more energetic than a collie dog (un cane ‘collie’) on hallucinogenics (sulgi allucinogeni). 

However, there is a third thing about my blog title (il mio titolo del mio blog) which I would like to clarify (chiarire): 

3) It has taken its inspiration from Kamin Mohammadi’s Bella Figura: How to Live, Love and Eat the Italian Wayparticularly from one dreamy character who I aspire to be: Antonella.

(If you are desperate for a book that will take you to the beauty of Florence in just a few quick page turns, I urge you to find a copy. If you aspire to become a no-nonsense belladonna who is flanked by beautiful people and a fantastic sense of style and grace, stick with me.)

But it is also greatly inspired by my abysmal attempt at speaking about the aforementioned book to a dear Italian-speaking friend, to whom I proudly announced I was reading ‘La Bella Figa.’ She told me through weeps of laughter that I had just declared myself an unabashed reader of ‘The Beautiful Pussy.’ In search for a PG-way to nod my head to this particular faux-pas, which I’m sure will not be my last, I landed on the subtitle of ‘La Bella Donna Figa’** – roughly translated as The Beautiful, Cool Woman.* This conversation took place on the Luas, a tram-like wormtrain in Dublin City Centre, as we made our way south-side to Sandyford to The Wall, where I would get my first taste of climbing. 

When satisfactorily sweaty and exhilarated from leaping up walls, I discussed my upcoming adventure (avventura) to Rome with some newly acquired athletic friends. Over the last few weeks (settimane), I have repeated these particular sentences over and over to myself like a life-affirming mantra, so to hear myself say them aloud to an audience was spell-binding:

 I am moving on October 1st to my dream city, Rome. All by my 23-year-old, nearly 24-year-old self. No family (la famiglia) or friends (gli amici), no [real] job (un [vero] lavoro), no dogs (i cani) nor lovers (gli amanti). Just me. How completely terrifying (terrificante) but also, delightful (delizioso). 

‘Rome’ by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

I talked about how I hope to live the bella figura lifestyle for one whole year before I commit to a career-path and the never-ending cycle of adult stresses. I laughed about the fortune (la fortuna) of having booked a whole year in a beautiful apartment (un appartamento) over looking a public park (un park publicco) that happened to only be a 15-minute (quindici minuti) walk from a pole dance studio (la mia passione)(Ok, so, this doesn’t actually mean pole studio, but as it turns out, the phrase ‘pole dance’ has remained as is in Italian, and at least this kind of looks a little more exciting… allora, comunque…) It is a position of complete and utter privilege, that I cannot deny (negare) and refuse to squander (sperperare)

Throughout the makings of this blog, I hope to track my progress (il mio progresso) through Italian and my fast-dunk education in Roman culture (la cultura romana). I will track the recipes (le ricette) I learn, (as Kamin does in her beautifully seductive travel book which, again, I urge you to go read it if you have not), the sights I see (le attrazioni), the people (persone) I meet and the experiences (le esperienze) I have while living away from home for the first time. 

 ‘Colosseo’ by marcuz85 on Flickr


As a veteran Classical Civilisations student, you can imagine that I have a few bucket list places I would like to see in and around the Ancient Eternal City. However, I also have a few unlikely places I would like to visit (visitare); some new, some ancient, and some very personal to me. Rome is a city I have returned (sono tornato) to again and again ever since I was eighteen (diciotto) years old. I have fallen in and out of love in this city in the space of weeks and weekends over the years. I have cried on its balconies (i balconi). I have delighted on its incredible food (il cibo incredibile). I have had forbidden embraces with ex-lovers (ex-amanti) in a hotel off the Spanish Steps, sneaky drinks on school trips near the Villa Borghese, wild nights-to-days in Termini with a man I once thought I would marry (un compleanno scandaloso) and I have even saved a girl I loved from heat stroke before the imposing and beautiful Pantheon (il pantheon). Rome has made me come alive every time I’ve visited, but always on my own terms. 

‘Pantheon’ by Nichole Brown on Flickr

This year, I hope, will be no different: more life (più vita), more tears (più piagendo), more love (più amore), more laughs (più risate). 

And with that, I guess I have said enough. 

In just over two months, I will begin my journey of a life-time. A sort of coming-home to myself; a self I envisioned over half a decade ago, have visited and flirted with over the years, but now, I come home to her (diventare uno con me stessa). To Rome. 

 Photo by Ailbhe McDonald (2015)

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

*As I write this very first post, I am beginning to panic about this title entirely. Should I say La Bella Donna Figata or Fresca? If fresca (English: fresh) turns out to be the correct word, I shall leave this title as is to prove the absolutely below standard level of Italian I currently hold. 


** I consulted my aforementioned Italian-speaking friend (la mia migliore amica) before publishing this blogpost. Apparently, it is neither figata or fresca. The first, figata, is to be used when complimenting someone’s new gadget, where you would say che figata! (How cool!). Fresca is to be used when describing something physically cool, like cream (la crema fresca). 
Instead, one should use figa. 
BUT BE WARNED: when used incorrectly, it could mean the difference between you calling a woman a cool/hot person or telling her she has a vagina. I’m sure that this would come as no surprise to her but it is frowned upon nonetheless. 

Italian is a tricky language. 
So far, here are my top tips: 

1) Get an Italian-speaking friend who will contextualise your cool, new words for you so that you can save face (salvare la faccia). 
2) Begin. Any word is better than none.