Category Archives: Where To? Wednesdays

A Jaunt Through London, England: Revisited

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

In the new plan of bringing previous articles to life in an effort to see them for the 1st time, or to get something new from them, we present this edition of Where To? Wednesday.

In 2014 the goal was to share a memorable experience of someone we know in Europe. The result became Where To? Wednesday.

In 2017 we’d like to continue that commitment. If you or anyone you know would like to share a story of traveling in Europe we would love to share it with a wider audience.

Today’s Where To? Wednesday features another special lady in my April Norrislife. Not only is she my sister-in-law, but she is also the mother of my only niece and nephew, whom my wife and I absolutely adore.

She has added a lot of love and joy to this world and those lucky enough to meet her can testify to that. Please give a hearty Rome Across Europe-welcome to the wonderful Mrs. April Norris!

Rome Across Europe: Thank you for taking time away from work to talk with us today.

April Norris: Of course! My pleasure.

RAE: I know I was lucky enough to get a moment of your time in between clients. Before we get started please tell us how is everything going with Optimal Vitality?

AN: Great! Getting people healthy for the New Year. Lots of people are motivated right now so it’s great to see people inspired to make a better life for themselves.

RAE: I love your positive outlook. I hope you are able to spread it to others.

AN: Me too! A positive outlook on life has SO much to do with overall health, the research is really fascinating.

RAE: And since you were so kind to give up some of your time to us, I will have our audience be sure to check out your site –

AN: Thanks!

RAE: So where are you taking us today, April?

AN: Jolly ol’ London, England.

The Armada Memorial in Plymouth depicting Britannia.

RAE: Ooh to Britannia? Nice. I think I even heard your accent through the computer.

When were you there?

AN: Haha. I was there in March of 2008, while I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter. My mom and I went to visit my sister who was studying abroad there.

RAE: Wow. That is a trip I am sure you will never forget.

How was the flight? Being pregnant and all?

AN: Flight was really long. Thankfully we flew business class and the attendants were really kind to me, letting me get up and stretch in the back, giving me extra heating pads and things. Special attention for the uncomfortable preggo lady.

RAE: Well you deserved it. What time of year was it?

AN: March, so it was still “blustery” (as my mom liked to say) and cold in London. But beautiful all the same.

RAE: How long were you there for? Did you visit any other places, or just keep it in London?

AN: I was there for a very short 3 days, and then my mom, sister and I flew to Moscow to visit my dad who was working there at the time.

RAE: Moscow must have been even more “blustery” I’m sure.

Tell us about London, please. What caught your eye during that 3 day jaunt?

AN: Well, we saw the various touristy things. Went up in the London Eye, saw Big Ben and Parliament (said in my best Chevy Chase voice) and Westminster Abbey.

RAE: Classic. European Vacation. Nice touch.


Did you do anything “off the beaten path” or did you stick to the big sites?

AN: We stuck to the big places, since we were only there such a short time. And being pregnant, my energy wasn’t the greatest.

RAE: I can only imagine your energy level. Such a trooper.

AN: We also went into the church itself, which was absolutely amazing. I got a little freaked out when we went into where all the kings and queens were buried. But just the depth of history blew my mind. It made me realize how very YOUNG America is.

RAE: Oh yes. As Americans, we tend to forget that most of our origins were made in Europe. England especially.

AN: I will say, on a side note, that my interest was piqued with all of the holistic health clinics I saw. A lot of homeopathy, natural herbal things…

RAE: In London, overall?

AN: Yes. All over London.

RAE: Europe has a tendency to be at the forefront of lots of ideas and positive ways of living these days.

AN: Well, we can get into the various natural health issues being suppressed by the US, but that’s an entirely different blog! Haha.

Inside WA
The Nave of Westminster Abbey.

RAE: Will you please share more about the Abbey?

AN: Westminster Abbey was gorgeous. I remember it being very cold inside!

RAE: What about Westminster Abbey stuck out for you, aside from the cold and the royalty that was under the floor?

Elizabeth I tomb effigy (digitally altered so railings do not sh
Elizabeth I tomb effigy.

AN: Haha. Architecture was unreal. The amount of time that it must have took, and gargoyles that must have weighed HUNDREDS of pounds, how they hoisted them up…without all the different engineering tools that we have nowadays.


There was an organist practicing while we were there, which vibrated throughout the entire church. It gave me Goosebumps.

The Abbey
Known formally as the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.

RAE: True. Rome Across Europe does its best to recognize the genius of ancient architecture, along with its lasting impact today. Glad to see others have a similar appreciation.

That organist was a nice addition. I doubt you could have that moment replicated ever again.

AN: Very true.

RAE: Knowing you are into food and health, what did you eat while in England?

AN: It was a bit challenging while we were there. I did my best to order soups, stews, maybe a salad or two. English people aren’t known for their fresh, California style vegetables, so there was some give and take with the menu choices.

RAE: Very carbohydrate loaded?

shepherd’s pie
Shepherd’s Pie

AN: Yes, heavy foods, shepherd’s pie, potatoes, pasta. But it was so cold. It makes sense why people try to eat warming, comforting foods.

[Break to take care of the kids]


RAE: While we had a break, I checked out more about British foods. It is interesting, and I shall end it there.

Since you have returned to the US, and are no longer pregnant, have you tried to recreate any of the dishes you had while in England?

AN: A little bit, only in the past few years have I gotten more creative in the kitchen.

RAE: That is certainly understandable. There are not a lot of culinary experts that are immediately created. It does take some time, and effort.

What was your favorite English food and what would you do to make it healthier? More suitable for your own eating habits

AN: I would say the best English food I had wasn’t really English at all. I love Indian cuisine and London had the BEST Indian food!

Chicken tikka masala, served atop rice.

I loved the Chicken Tikka Masala, which my husband and I now eat frequently. But, if I’d make a healthy swap for a “typical” English dish, like Fish and Chips, I’d swap out the fried part. I’d bake the fish.

I would substitute the wheat flour with quinoa flour or almond flour to make it Gluten-Free. I’d bake the “Chips” and switch the white potatoes for sweet potatoes.

Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips

They are more nutrient dense. I’d cook them in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Then I’d season with garlic powder, sea salt and a little black pepper. Awesome! I might have some inspiration for my dinner tonight.

RAE: Perfect! See this is not only about inspiring others to go somewhere new, but to try new things as well. We try to inspire each other.

Let us transition from food to drink now. Is tea really as big of a deal to the British as the world makes it seem?

Tea TimeAN: Oh yes. It’s so deeply integrated into their daily routine. Never separate a Brit and their tea.

I think it’s a great ritual to take a little time out every day and decompress. They’ve really got something there. Americans should pay attention.

RAE: I agree. As a whole, I think there are many European traditions of daily living that could really help out everyday people here in America and it would not really be a hard change.

Enough preaching I guess. For most Americans who have never traveled abroad, I believe England (or the UK overall) would be a good starting point since the Brits also speak English.

Was it hard to understand Proper English, and the accents, compared to the English spoken here in the states?

AN: Sometimes it was a little confusing when they would talk real fast. But like you say, it’s still English so a lot of guesswork was taken out.

While I was there I noticed different accents, and I found out it depends on what part of England you’re from. Kind of like the US.

A deep southern accent sounds nothing like someone from the Pacific Northwest. Same goes for England.

It was fun listening to the different “twangs”. My ears were on overload!

RAE: I can imagine. The explanation of the regional dialect was very helpful.

How was the lifestyle in London? Were locals hustling and bustling around? Do the folks there take mid-day breaks like other European countries, or are they more similar to America in how daily life goes?

AN: London was pretty busy. Lots of tourists. Very busy locals. I’m not real sure of the mid-day breaks but I’m assuming they all had tea-time about 4PM.

RAE: Did you have any positive or negative experiences with the locals that come to mind?

AN: Nope. I can’t remember anything specific.

RAE: That is understandable. For most people, only situations that were really great or horrendous tend to stick out. If you had a good time then it would probably all blend together.

I realize you were pregnant at the time so you were not drinking, but did you visit any English Pubs with your mother and sister while there?

English Pub
A large selection of beers and ales in a traditional pub in London.

If so, were they like what is portrayed on TV or in movies? Or was it completely different?

AN: Yes, we went to dinner in a pub one night. Which was really fun. The one we visited was really dark and dingy. Lots of locals hung out there. So yeah, kind of how they’re portrayed in TV.

I can’t remember the name of it, but my sister recommended it and said it was one of the more fun pubs. She could probably give you more insight as to what pubs to visit and how the nightlife is.

RAE: Thanks. We will have to look into that.

How did you get around? Since your condition at the time, plus the weather, was there less walking than you would usually do?

England’s version of a subway.

AN: My mom and I walked quite a bit. I would say at least 4-5 miles a day. When I got really tired, then we’d hail a taxi to get where we needed to be. But it was great to walk.

When you go to a place like London, you really notice how walkable European cities are, and it makes me sad sometimes that I don’t live in an area where it’s pedestrian friendly. We took the “Tube” or the London Underground, which was great. Really cheap and easily accessible.

RAE: That is American suburban living for you. Maybe in the future you can get back to life in the city.

If you were to return to London now, what would you do? Or would you even want to go back?

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace. This is the principal façade, the East Front; originally constructed by Edward Blore and completed in 1850. It acquired its present appearance following a remodelling, in 1913, by Sir Aston Webb.

AN: Yes, I would love to go back. Next time I’d want to visit Buckingham Palace. Maybe a museum or two.

I’d definitely love to experience the London nightlife. Dance clubs, bars, etc. Mama likes to dance! Haha.

Also I’d want to see more of England itself, more of the countryside. My parents say it’s beautiful. I haven’t really investigated it too much because I need to convince my husband to go somewhere other than a place that’s tropical and sunny.

But when I do, I’ll have a list of places!

RAE: Oh, I understand that. My brother is kind of set in his ways like that. If you need some help in changing that, just let me know.

April, thank you for your time again. You have been such a joy. Lots of love go to you for sharing, and please pass those feelings to the rest of the family.

AN: Thanks Shawn, same to you and Jenn!

We thus complete another wonderful interview for another Where To? Wednesday. Please join us next time for another unique look at somewhere special in Europe. If you have an questions or comments for Rome Across Europe, or about the articles, please let us know. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

I, Claudius

History: There is evidence of the area having scattered settlements from local tribes. The first major settlement, however, was founded by the Romans after the conquest of 43 AD led by Emperor Claudius.

The settlement then grew into a rather large city by 50 AD. The Romans named this location Londinium. It was established at the point where the River Thames was narrow enough to build a bridge, but deep enough to handle seagoing marine vessels. This only lasted until around 61 AD when the Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudica, stormed the city and burned it to the ground.

The next, heavily planned, incarnation of Londinium prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in 100 AD. The city was a major commercial center for the Empire.

At its height during the 2nd Century, Roman London had a population of around 60,000. This made Londinium one of the largest cities in the Roman West.

Trajan at London Wall
Statue of Emperor Trajan in front of London Wall.

Between 190 and 225 AD, the Romans built the London Wall, a defensive wall around the landward side of the city. Along with Hadrian’s Wall and the road network, the London Wall was one of the largest construction projects carried out in Roman Britain (About 3 miles long, 20 feet high, and 8 feet 2 inches thick).

In spite of all dangers and hardships faced, the wall would survive for another 1,600 years. The perimeters of the modern London are roughly defined by the line of the ancient wall.

Between AD 407 and 409 large numbers of barbarians penetrated Gallia and Hispania, seriously weakening communication between Rome and Britain. British troops elected their own leaders.

Constantine III
Coin depicting Constantine III.

The last of these leaders, Constantine III, declared himself to be Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Constantine III took an expeditionary force across the Channel, leaving Britain short of troops.

As Rome’s impact started to decline, so did its impact on Roman Britain. The area of Londinium remained largely uninhabited for about 200 years, until the site was resettled by Anglo-Saxons.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey. We look forward to more Where To? Wednesdays with you, and sharing other explorations as well.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Venice – An Experience Like No Other

Welcome everyone to Rome Across Europe and our last installment of Where To? Wednesdays for 2015.

This week’s interview is a repeat guest and a lady that is very important to RAE, and me as well. She is a full-time teacher, RAE’s Editor in Chief, and my wife.

Let’s give a great big round of applause for Jennifer Norris.

Rome Across Europe – So hello there.

Jennifer Norris – Hello.

RAE – Well we just got you checked into the delivery room at the hospital. Since we have some time, would you mind if we do an interview?

JN – This may not last long or turn out well for you.

RAE – I’ll take that chance Honey. Last time we visited here you took us to Santorini, Greece. Where are you taking us today?

JN – Why don’t we go to Venezia (or Venetiae in Latin)?Venice1

RAE – Okay. Let’s go!

JN – (Epidural just began) That’s some energy you got there.

RAE – Just trying to keep the mood light and breezy. So please tell us why you want to share your experience in Venice. What made Venice so interesting?

JN – Well, it was the first place we traveled to as a married couple. We went to Rome after, but Venice is where our new life together began.

RAE – That’s the best response I’ve ever heard. You’re so wonderful.

JN – Thanks, I know.

RAE – When we arrived in Venice, what was your first thought?

JN – It’s amazing to finally be here after all the planning and talking about it. The entire experience began with us flying over the snow-capped Alps.Alps

RAE – Since the city is a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, were you impressed by the boats as the primary means of transportation?

JN – Definitely. They use boats to travel around and go farther distances like we use cars to drive across town.

RAE – How did you feel about using the water taxis?

JN – It wasn’t anything scary, but it was something that I’d never experienced before.

RAE – Where did we stay? What did you think about the hotel?

JN – We stayed at Hotel Vecellio along the Fondamenta Nove, the long promenade on the north side of Venice. It was quaint and along the waterfront. The owner was over-the-top friendly and extremely helpful. He appreciated you trying to speak broken-Italian to him, but preferred having us speak English. Super nice.edificio-del-hotel-desde

RAE – I tried my best. What was the most impressive thing you saw?

JN – It would have to be the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica. There was just so much beauty, art and history. It was amazing.St Mark's Basilica

RAE – Why’s that?

JN – There was so much going on, both inside and out. Two awesome things adorned on the church were the Horses of Saint Mark and the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs.Horses of St Mark and Tetrarchs

RAE – I know! Both were historical sculptures made for Roman Emperors that had once been in Constantinople.

JN – I loved how much it excited you.

RAE – Well, thank you. Did you enjoy the view from St Mark’s Campanile (Campanile di San Marco)?St Mark's Campanile and Piazza San Marco

JN – Oh my gosh, yes. Since we were there at the very end of October the weather wasn’t so nice. It was cloudy/rainy that day, and a bit cold, but you could still see all of Venice. A complete 360-degree view and looking down upon Piazza San Marco. It was like nothing else.From St Mark's Campanile

RAE – What else did we see?

JN – Since we didn’t have a lot of time in Venice, it was basically whatever we stumbled across that was within walking distance of the hotel. I thought the photo I captured of the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) was a very good find.Bridge of Sighs

RAE – That’s right. We were just roaming around and you wanted to take a picture of this arch over a side-canal. It turned out to be the bridge that passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.

JN – It was the location from which the notorious lover Casanova escaped from prison. A very impressive story. Probably an even better picture of it though (winks).

RAE – You’re great a capturing things I enjoy, whether you do it on purpose or not. What else did you enjoy?

JN – It wasn’t anything overwhelming or grandiose, but I really loved seeing the columns on the waterfront of Piazza San Marco. The Lion of Venice especially spoke to me. I don’t know whether it’s because the Lion symbolizes the city or its patron saints, but it was impactful.Lion of Venice and St Theodore

RAE – Maybe it was because it complements the statue of St Theodore on the opposite column so well. Or maybe it was because scientific and art historical studies led to the conclusion that the Lion was created between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd Centuries BC somewhere in the Hellenistic Greek or Oriental Greek world. We all know you love Ancient Greece as much as I love Ancient Rome.

JN – True.

RAE – How would you say the food was in Venice?

JN – I know you loved it since there was fresh seafood everywhere. I’m not a fan of seafood at all, but that didn’t take anything away from the cuisine. In fact, that little diner a few blocks from our hotel was fabulous.

RAE – Sadly, I can’t remember the name but can picture it perfectly in my head (sorry readers). What did you have?

JN – To drink, as we learned from the start, we enjoyed a lovely house red wine. Every place we went a bottle of house red was a perfect accompaniment to our food. As for the main dish, I enjoyed the Spaghetti alla Carbonara.Spaghetti alla Carbonara

RAE – My gosh, the food was divine! I wasn’t a fan of wine, in general, before this trip but you convinced me that it was the best way to go. And you were right, it was the best drink for all meals.

JN – I won’t say it’s hard being right, but…

RAE – Moving on. The restaurant next door to our hotel, Algiubagio, was a fun place too. It had the perfect, light food for eating like a Venetian (late, light, easy).At Algiubagio

Was there anything significant that stood out while we were there?

JN – It feels as if you’re leading me to discuss something. Are you wanting me to speak of the departure?

RAE – I don’t care to relive it, but it’s worth noting for our readers.

JN – Our train to Rome wasn’t until about noon, so we went down to breakfast about 8:30am. While we were eating our host asked us when we planned to leave. He said that if we didn’t leave in the next 30 minutes, then we’d be stuck there for the evening.

RAE – Why was that?

JN – The acqua alta (high water) came in and flooded the city. It had flooded 1.4 meters that day. The highest ever in Venice was 1.56 meters. As we came to find out, it was the highest the city has flooded since 1956.Flood

RAE – So we rushed to get out and get to the train station, and then what happened?

JN – The flood had already definitely started coming in. We’d only gone about a few blocks and the water was already coming up over our knee-high rain boots. I remember the locals looking at us while we were walking with a look that said “silly tourists”.

RAE – I remember those looks. How far did we have to go to get to the nearest water taxi?

JN – We couldn’t even get a water taxi because of how high the water was. None of them were even running, so we had to walk to the other side of town, passed Grand Canal (Canal Grande), to get to the train station.

RAE – As I struggled to keep both of our suitcases from gaining more water, or flooding themselves, did you recall any offer of help for you? You had both carry-ons.

JN – Nope. There wasn’t a single offer.

RAE – How far did we get before I just couldn’t take any more?

JN – We stopped a few times to catch our breath, but there wasn’t really any place to stop. Every place was flooded, so we couldn’t set the bags down anywhere. We walked about a mile towards the center of town before we got to high enough land that our bags could be set down and wouldn’t end up under water.

RAE – I remember the rain didn’t help either.

JN – Oh, no. You were so exhausted but just at that moment we saw an early 20-year-old male with what appeared to be a furniture dolly. I went up to him and asked, in broken-Italian, if we could buy it from him or at least rent it till we got to the train station.

RAE – What happened next was like a gift from God.

JN – In English, the young man said “You’re American? Me too! How can I help?” Turns out Mark was attending university in Bologna and happened to be in Venice working with film crew for a German soap-opera. He happened to have his own boat and pilot that could take us to the train station along Grand Canal. But first, it was time for a Cappuccino!Mark aka Marco Polo

RAE – We offered to buy them all drinks, but were politely declined.

JN – Mark was over-top-sweet and could see how much help we needed. He took us up Grand Canal to the station, which was a HUGE relief. Even better was that we were the only boat on the water at the time. Everyone walking along the canal just starred and wondered who we were and why we were on the water.Cruising Grand Canal

RAE – What I couldn’t believe is that they gentlemen wouldn’t even accept a tip or repayment of gas or offering to buy them more drinks.

JN – I know. A life lesson was learned that day. Doing something kind for strangers will be its own reward.

RAE – I’ve tried to do that when I can, but nothing can compare to Mark’s generosity and kindness.

JN – Agreed.

RAE – Do you have any final comments or remarks for our readers about Venice?

JN – We’ll have to go back in the springtime to experience Venice in the sunshine. It’d be a whole new world.

RAE – Indeed. No wind blowing signs off of buildings. No floods. We can even enjoy potato chips and wine again!

JN – I loved that! It’s funny how here in Texas it’s either margaritas or beer with chips & salsa. In Venice it was wine and potato chips. How classy!

RAE – Agreed. And with that, we shall let you rest and deliver our child with no more interruptions from me.

Venice…It truly was an experience like no other.

I want to say how much I love my wife and thank her so much for being such a trooper in doing this interview. My hope was to distract her from the lack of television programming in the early morning on a Sunday, and from the pain of the contractions.Ciao

We wish you well in your future trip to Venice and hope we provided you with some great insight. This is the last Where To? Wednesday for 2015. We’ll see you again in 2016.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Rome – A Dream Come True

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! If this is your initial visit we’re glad to have you, and welcome back to all of our fabulous supporters.

The 1st Wednesday of each month we do an interview with a friend who has visited anyplace in Europe that has a connection to the Imperium Rōmānum. We call the piece Where To? Wednesday and we have a surprise twist going on today.

Instead of me asking the questions on behalf of RAE, my wife and site Analyst, Jennifer, will be taking over that role. For the first time ever, I will be talking about my own trip.

And with that, I’ll hand the reigns over to Jennifer as we travel to Rome, Italy!Rome

Rome Across Europe: Thank you for having me. This is quite an honor, especially since I know how much you don’t like having control of the questions.

Shawn Thomas Norris: It’s kind of weird being on this end of the interview. Plus, you were with me on this trip so that’ll keep your questions from straying too far (winks at Jennifer).

RAE: Nice. So why did it take you so long to share your own story about traveling to Rome? Why didn’t you do this sooner?

STN: Great question. I guess I wanted to have others share their experiences so the website included people other than me. And since we just celebrated our 3rd Wedding Anniversary, I thought this would be the perfect time to share our trip to Rome. This article will coincide to when we were actually in Rome.

RAE: Very good. So how did the trip begin?

STN: So you and I had just gotten married and we were taking our honeymoon to Italy, starting in Venice and ending in Rome. I think I’ll save Venice for a future article. Anyhow, our flight was delayed and took some work to get us to Italy on-schedule. Knowing it was our honeymoon helped get us too.Honeymoon

RAE: It did indeed. The drink vouchers were really nice for that long flight. So how long were were we in Rome?

STN: We arrived in Rome via the train from Venice on 2 November and departed 5 November. It wasn’t nearly enough time.

RAE: Tell me about it. You’ve loved Rome and its history since before the two of us got together. What were you most excited about seeing?

STN: I wanted to see everything! Having spent so much time reading about various people and things that happened in Ancient Rome, I wanted to be there for myself. I wanted to be in the same places where Julius Caesar received his triumphus upon returning victorious over the Gauls. I wanted to stand where Augustus stood as the 1st Emperor of Rome. I wanted to see the Colosseum where actual gladiators fought. There was nothing too small for me to want to see.

RAE: Yes. You were quite the handful about being on the move to get to see everything. It was both fun and a bit annoying simultaneously.

STN: Oh, I understand. Having planned this trip out months in advance I had a great idea about what we should do from our central location.

RAE: What was the name of the hotel we stayed?

STN: The Hotel Hiberia on Collis Quirinalis (Quirinal Hill), south of the Giardini di Montecavallo (Gardens Montecavallo) and north of the Mercatus Traiani (Trajan’s Market) and Forum Traiani (Trajan’s Forum).Hotel Hiberia

RAE: I remember walking up and down that hill. It was something.

STN: It made for less guilt when eating all that creamy pasta and drinking all that wine. I did it for us.

RAE: Right (sarcasm). So where did we visit first?

STN: The first place we headed was the Pantheon. This building was originally for “every god” in Roman mythology, but was later taken over by the Catholic Church and dedicated to Jesus and all the Saints.Pantheon

RAE: What made this monument so special that it was your very first stop?

STN: After having gotten into Roman history, I sort of fell in love withOculus the ancient architecture. When buildings and public artworks made thousands of years ago are still standing it makes you have a greater appreciation for what Ancient Rome was all about. Aside from being very pleasing to the eye, the Pantheon was a top stop for almost 2,000 years after it was built the dome of the Pantheon is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. That and the light shinning down on everything inside from the oculus give a feeling words simply can’t describe.

RAE: I know what you mean. I don’t have the passion you do for Ancient Rome, but I felt so overwhelmed and inspired upon entering the Pantheon that I actually began to cry.

STN: I remember that. I think that made me appreciate the moment even more. Knowing that something you aren’t as passionate about cause you to weep tears of joy told me that I’d made the right choice in starting there.

RAE: Well thank you for that Honey.

STN: Thanks go to you for making a moment I’ll never forget, even with my shoddy memory.

RAE: What was next?

STN: Because of its proximity to the Pantheon, we traveled west to the Piazza Navona. Built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, the Piazza Navona is now a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture and art. It’s also the home of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) which has an obelisk from Ancient Egypt.Fountain of the Four Rivers

RAE: It felt as if I had seen that fountain before.

STN: You’re good and it’s because you had. The Fountain of the Four Rivers was the one where Tom Hanks jumps into it to save the priest in the film Angels and Demons. Just one more thing to make another of the many fountains in Rome feel special.

RAE: The fountains were pretty special. It was hard not to be won over by them since they are not only huge, but they are everywhere throughout the city. Where were we off to next?

STN: This is where we didn’t have an agenda and sort of roamed in Rome.

RAE: You’re better than that.

STN: Sorry. We made our way south to the Piazza Vidoni and checked out Sant’Andrea della Valle. It was the Baroque façade that caught my eye.Sant'Andrea della Valle

RAE: Of course it was. What did you enjoy about the basilica?

STN: The frescoes. They’re everywhere! From the chapels to theInside Sant'Andrea della Valle dome to the apse, there are frescoes all over. Some were even done in bronze. I can’t imagine that being an easy task back in the 1600s. Plus, all of it was simply an addition to something else. Popes, Cardinals and other royalty just kept making Sant’Andrea della Valle into something more lavish and worth taking note of. As far as churches go, it was the most awe inspiring one I’ve ever been in.

RAE: Just wait on that comment. And where did we unknowingly end up because I got hungry?

STN: We ended up in the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum).Roman Forum

RAE: And why was that incredible?

STN: Because it was in the Forum Romanum that Julius Caesar was murdered.

RAE: And we all know how much you adore Caesar.

STN: It’s true. What was weird is that the Forum remnants are now home to the city’s feral cats. There were signs everywhere saying to not feed the cats and leave them alone.

RAE: You’re welcome. How did the day end?

STN: We did some even exploration and tossing coins into the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain).Trevi Fountain

RAE: Ooh, this was good.

STN: Indeed and we made our wish. If you stand backwards in front of Trevi Fountain and toss a Euro from your right hand over your left shoulder into the fountain, according to tradition, you will return to Rome. You better believe I wasn’t missing an opportunity at helping me, I mean us, return to the world’s greatest city. The Eternal City.Trevi Fountain Kiss

RAE: (Sighing) That and we helped Rome’s needy too! All of the coins from Trevi Fountain are used to subsidize a local supermarket to help feed the city’s needy. Around 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day.

STN: Well, look at you sharing a fact that I didn’t know. Trevi Fountain was the fountain Frank Sinatra sang about in his song, Three Coins in the Fountain. Trevi Fountain was also a focal point in the 1953 classic film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.

RAE: You and your facts. Did anything else happen that night?

STN: Rome at night is like no other place I’ve ever been to. There’s so many huge buildings from various stages of history all mixed in with the present. Anything historical is lit up and looks simply amazing. On our way back to the hotel we did a bit more exploring. The most interesting sights, I thought, were the Temple of Hadrian and the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II).

RAE: Can you please explain why both of those stood out for you?

STN: The Temple of Hadrian was a building dedicated to the Roman
Emperor of the same name. In England he’s the guy that built a wallTemple of Hadrian across the country to keep out Rome’s unwanted. Now all that remains of his temple is a cella of 11 Corinthian columns, which are over 49 ft tall, from the external colonnade, on a 13 ft high peperino base. What is cool is that this is now the street-side wall of a bank. I like how things are repurposed so as not to be lost entirely.

RAE: There seems to be a lot of that in Rome. And what’s the Victor Emmanuel II monument?

STN: Victor Emmanuel II was the 1st King of a Unified Italy. The monument holds Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Vittoriano features stairways, Corinthian columns, fountains, an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and 2 statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas. It is massive with a total area of 182,986 square feet!Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

RAE: That is massive and it was a pretty solid first day. What happened on the second?

STN: It didn’t start out well for me. I wanted to tour the Colosseum (Amphitheatrum Flavium), but apparently it was closed that Saturday. Maybe for a holiday or something, I can’t remember. What I do remember is being immediately disappointed.

RAE: It was not your finest moment, Honey.

STN: I know, but it was yours. You suggested we go tour the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums) and searched online for tickets so we wouldn’t have to wait in line.Vatican Museum Entrance

RAE: That was pretty awesome of me.

STN: Totally. We headed out to Civitas Vaticana (Vatican City) to get our tickets.

RAE: And Vatican City is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.

STN: You’re so smart. And yes it is. Your pre-purchase of the museum tickets saved us at least half a day.

RAE: I know how you despise waiting in lines.

STN: It’s true. The best thing about the Vatican Museum is that it wasn’t all just art or building for the Catholic Church. There was a lot, maybe even more, in the museum about Ancient Rome and Italy than Christian items. And when works from Raphael and Michelangelo are all packed into a single area, you almost have to try to not appreciate what you’re seeing.

RAE: We all know how incredible the Sistine Chapel (Sacellum Sixtinum) is and have heard of that. Did anything else in the Vatican Museums strike your fancy?Sistine Chapel

STN: You bet! The following items really impacted me in this order:

Augusto di Prima Porta (Augustus of Prima Porta) – This is a statue of Rome’s 1st Emperor, Augustus Caesar, who was a pagan, in the holiest of Catholic/Christian locations. Wrap your head around that for a moment.Augusto di Prima Porta

Madonna of Foligno – Painted by Raphael, this work of art depicts the Virgin Mary seated on clouds, embracing the baby Jesus, while surrounded by angels, while Sigismonde de’ Conti, St. Jerome with his lion, St. Francis of Assisi and St. John the Baptist gaze upwards.

St. Jerome in the WildernessLeonardo da Vinci painted this depiction of St. Jerome during his retreat to the Syrian Desert, where he lived the life of a hermit. At the feet of St. Jerome is the lion which became a loyal companion after he extracted a thorn from its paw.St. Jerome in the Wilderness

Laocoön and His Sons (Gruppo del Laocoonte) – The figures are near life-size in height, showing the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being attacked by sea serpents. In Virgil‘s Aeneid, Laocoön was a priest of Poseidon who was killed with both his sons after attempting to expose the ruse of the Trojan Horse by striking it with a spear. This sculpture is a big deal since it is claimed that Trojan refugee Aeneas was an ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.Laocoön and His Sons

Sarcophagus of Helena – This is the coffin in which Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, was buried in AD 329 in Constantinople. Claimed to be the Christian influence upon her son, her remains were brought back to Rome when Constantinople fell to the Muslims.Sarcophagus of Helena

RAE: On our way back to the hotel, did anything special happen?

STN: Aside from us riding a carousel, we came across Hadrian’s Tomb, which is now known as Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel). You only liked it since the Special Forces team serving as guards had caps and uniforms like Peter Pan or Robin Hood with a feather in them.Carousel_Castel Sant’Angelo_Guards

RAE: It’s true. They did. And how did we end this night?

STN: We explored Il Colosseo and the Arch of Constantine (Arco di Costantino) all lit up. You never gave up on getting me to see the Colosseum. Plus, you knew how much I love A) Arches and B) Emperor Constantine that this was almost a no-brainer.Colosseum and Arch of Constantine

RAE: I do. It’s a gift. I like making you happy.

STN: Well you capped off a day of wonderfulness with somethingArch of Constantine special. Seeing the Colosseum at night gave it an entirely different perspective. It made it as humbling and mysterious as all the stories we hear about it. And as for Constantine’s Arch, I was going to love that no matter what. Having the pair right next to each other is like a dream come true for me.

RAE: Sometimes you are super easy to please.

STN: I try to be like that as much as I can, but there’s just not a whole bunch of stuff that gets me going like what was in Rome. I’d live there if I could, and if you’d ever want to. I’m just saying.Colosseum

RAE: We’ll have to see about that. Getting back to the trip, what happened on Day 3?

STN: You impressed me, yet again, and got us tickets to tour the Colosseum!Colosseum Tour

RAE: I thought it’d be a special way to end our time in Rome.

STN: Well Honey, you were super spot on! Once again we didn’t have to wait in any line and our tour guide was entertaining/humorous. English was her 2nd language but she was very easy to understand.

RAE: She was pleasant and made jokes about events that took place in the arena.

STN: Aside from learning that up to 80,000 people could be inside to watch an event, there were 80 entrances to which people entered with pottery shards serving as a ticket for the appropriate section and row. From the Latin “to spew forth” the spectators could enter or exit the Colosseum via vomitoria in a matter of a few minutes. That’s from ground level to the top of the arena, 3-stories up!vomitoria

RAE: Very impressive.

STN: I could go on for days about any single item that we saw, but that would bore the readers.

RAE: We definitely don’t want to do that. Was there anything else worth mentioning?

STN: Again, I could go on for days and days about the amazing food we had. I also began to appreciate red wine since I had it with every meal aside from breakfast.

RAE: That’s true. You never drank wine before the trip. Now, you work for a wine distributor. What are the odds of that?

STN: We’ll thank Rome for that.

RAE: Is there anything else you would like to add?

STN: Visiting Rome should be on everyone’s Bucket List. It’s amazing and does not disappoint.

RAE: Obviously we are going back to Rome at some point. What is a “must see” for that trip?

STN: That’s easy. The Circus Maximus. The Baths of Caracalla. Hadrian’s Villa. And explore the Catacombs of Rome. I just want to spend as much time as possible to get a full and rich experience, especially since I hate being rushed and waiting in lines.

RAE: It might be a few years, but I promise we’ll get you back. And with that it’s time to bring this article to a close. I’d like to again say thank you for being in this new spot as the interviewer and say my husband is an easy interview, especially when discussing his favorite city in the world.Ciao

Please come back soon to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

A Day In Florence

Buon Giorno! Welcome back to Rome Across Europe and another edition of Where To? Wednesday. We are back in Italy today, but a region that has not been discussed as of yet. We have a new guest and a new perspective on traveling.

Today we welcome Janet Love. She was a family friend back in48 California during my pre-adolescence years. Janet has traveled quite a bit and has a special talent when it comes to photography. During the time that I have known Janet she has been able to tell a story through her prints. Today we ask her to share both her photos, and verbally explain them.

Rome Across Europe: Welcome to Rome Across Europe, and another edition of Where To? Wednesday. So Janet, please tell us where are you taking us today?

Janet Love: To Florence, Italy….

RAE: That’s wonderful. Let’s get Under that Tuscan Sun.


What time of year was it when you went?

JL: It was a lovely August day…perfect weather!

RAE: How long were you there?

JL: Well, not long enough for me. But it was just a day in Florence. We were on a cruise ship and went from Florence to other ports.

RAE: Nice. What did you do while there?

JL: We joined a group of people and had an excellent guide. We walked the city. Florence is a city to be savored, its finest monuments and works of art.

9We crossed the Arno into the city, and then started in the twin squares around the Duomo.

Santa Maria del Fiore with the green,3 white and pink marble faced Duomo. I was in awe. Saw the Campanile  as well. We went to two Piazzas, Piazza della Signoria and then Palazzo Vecchio.

RAE: How did Florence strike you? Was it large or did it have a small, quaint feel?

JL: I personally love the Renaissance period and artworks, so I was in 6heaven. I could feel the Medicis and Leonardo….in spirit.

Oh my gosh. It was perfectly small and quaint. The small walkways, the people were so friendly. It was beautiful.

RAE: Then you must have been in your own heaven, no?

JL: In the square of Loggia della Signoria, which shelters celebratedLoggia della Signoria statuary I saw Cellini‘s works and a “copy” of David. Unbelievable. My heart almost couldn’t take it. The original David is in the Uffizi Gallery, which I later saw.

I truly could have stayed a week in that city. It was amazing. More than I ever imagined.

5To walk around the closed-in walkways with the quaint shops and places for espresso was a big deal. Wow! We even came across a small hotel called “Hotel California“! We all laughed since that is where we were from.

RAE: That’s a good memory.

JL: I wish I could share my pictures. That’s where my real memoriesgelato in florence are located. I captured it all. Kids eating gelato, old couples holding hands….I am a romantic and love it all.

RAE: Please share more about the people.

JL: I truly felt…the locals and the tourists were so happy. They were excited to be in a city of pure beauty. Truly it’s hard to express the pure joy of such a historical city. Just to imagine the people that have walked the streets and smelled the air, the fresh baked goods….

RAE: Speaking of food, did you enjoy any while on your visit?

JL: We only had time for a quick lunch. I remember the wine!

41The most amazing dinner on the whole trip was in Portofino. That was an out of this world experience!

RAE: Italian wine is amazing so I can understand why you remembered it. That is pretty obvious.

Was the wine something local?

JL: I am getting off subject…but did get to so the original place that invented Fettuccine Alfredo! That was in Rome.

RAE: That is impressive since I personally love Fettuccine Alfredo.

JL: Yes the wine was local. We would ask wherever we went what the locals would have. Never went wrong. Lovely.

RAE: All the people I have interviewed already have said similar variations of that. What is local is what you want as a tourist. Those are great words to live by.47

JL: The fresh seafood in Portofino was served family style in a beautiful port. There were colorful fishing boats in the distance. It was so good. I can smell it now…just thinking about it.

You can never go wrong if you do as the locals do! I prefer the small local haunts. You meet the most interesting people.

RAE: Is Florence a city meant to be walked or do you take public transportation?

JL: You can walk once you are in the city. We took a bus naturally 12from the cruise ship. You get a nice view of the city, to get your bearings and such.

Oh, we did go to the house that Dante lived in which was sodante's house florence interesting.

RAE: And how was that? The style and such?

JL: It was small, as the entire city dwellings are, at least compared to the states. But to 7imagine him writing Dante’s Inferno there! Later we saw his beautiful marble tomb in the church.

RAE: Quite inspiring.

JL: It truly was inspiring, every part of the city.

RAE: Aside from the Arno, there are 3 other minor rivers that flow through Florence.

JL: Going over the Arno with all its history…Amazing.Arno River

RAE: Did that make it humid or similar to Venice? Or was Florence a place to stand out on its own?

JL: I have not been to Venice, at least I haven’t yet. I did not think it was humid at all. I can’t remember the other rivers, sorry.

We left there and went to see Pisa to see the leaning tower! It really does lean! What a marvel.

RAE: I know if you were to go back you would stay longer. Would you stay in town or go by cruise ship again?

JL: That’s a hard question. It was nice to wake up in different ports with new experiences each day. But you can’t see it all in a day; you need a week at least in each spot. I would stay in a city so I’d get to hang with the locals.

I plan to go back to Roma and just stay there, as there is so much to do.

RAE: Thanks for the photos. I forgot how much you were into photography, as your own form of expression.

Were you on overload in Florence and Italy? I know I was with all 4there was to take pictures of.

JL: Yes! I was on sensory overload. It’s true. On that trip I took 1,200 pictures of everything!

RAE: Dang! Did you have something particular that caught your eye that you just couldn’t pass up? What caused you to take so many photos?

JL: Cats, people, flowers, food! I have to find some of the pictures to give you.30

One example is the boys leaning over the sea wall. They were intent on something in 20the water. I love boys that age and they were local boys, in the sea port of Portofino.

RAE: What do you look for when taking pictures?

JL: I try to tell a story by taking pictures. I try to capture the time of1 day, the feel of the weather, the mood of the day. Years later I want to be able to look at them and have them send me immediately back in the moment.

At Portofino, we went during the day and again at night. During the afternoon I saw 18the fishermen coming in from their day at sea. I saw these boys playing on the sea wall. I saw the town cats looking for35 dropped treats from the fishermen.

Actually, here is a treat for you. As I was walking thru this village I saw this store 42and thought of your family…. (My last name is NORRIS, but still nice to see something similar in Italy)

RAE: I remember your pictures you took of my first Labrador Retriever, Rio. They are some of my favorites. How do you know what feels right when you take the photos?

JL: You asking me to share my travel memories. That is truly my passion.14

RAE: That’s perfect! Those pictures you gave to me are going in the printed article to be shared with our readers.

JL: Pictures help those of us, who are not 34good with words, express ourselves. At least for myself anyway. I’m shy but not with photos! [Laughter]

RAE: This was a real treat. It was exploring a new place with personalized visualization, not just stock photos.

JL: Glad I could participate. Hope I didn’t ramble too much. It truly was a trip of a life time!33

RAE: Janet, thank you very much for sharing with Rome Across Europe today. We have a new location and new experience. Would you mind if we asked you about any other of your trips in the future?

JL: Thanks Shawn. I think that’d be Ok.

RAE: Perfect. With that I shall bid you Arrivederci!

JL: Till next time then. Nice talking with you.

And with that Where To? Wednesday completes another wonderful trip to another spectacular location. On behalf of Roman Across Europe, I would like to thank Janet love for sharing her experience. Even more we would like to thank her for sharing some amazing photos. It made the trip come alive for us all. Thank you for stopping by and till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History: In 80 BC, Florence was established by Lucius Cornelius Sulla. It was established as a settlement for his veteran soldiers, Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felixwhich was a typical process for those completing their service. The town was built in the style of an army camp with the main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica. The original name was Fluentia,Piazza della Repubblica owing to the fact that it was built between two rivers. This later was corrupted to Florentia. Situated at the Via Cassia, the main route between Rome Map_of_Roman_roads_in_Italyand the north, and within the fertile valley of the Arno, the settlement quickly became an important commercial centre.

A Party In Monaco

Welcome back Rome Across Europe-rs! In the newest addition of Where To? Wednesday our guest is someone who has experienced a lot, and who has helped me through good times and bad. He is my fraternity brother from our time at Chapman University, and is a “real”Nima & Sara brother as far as I am concerned.

As a special feature we are also having his wife join us. This is the first “couple’s addition” we have done, so this is monumental. Without further adieu, let us introduce Mr. Nima Sharif and his lovely wife Mrs. Sara Babdi-Sharif.

Rome Across Europe: Welcome to Rome Across Europe’s Where To? Wednesday. So Mr. Nima and Mrs. Sara, where are you taking us today?

Nima Sharif: In September of last year Sara and I were in London, Paris, Nice, Monaco, Portofino, Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos.

Sara Babadi-Sharif: We went all over Europe last summer for our honeymoon.

RAE: That sounds like an amazing trip! Let us venture to a place Where To? Wednesday has not yet been. How about Monaco?

NS: For a party NOTHING beats Monaco.

Lit Up

RAE: Nima, I know from experience you can party like nobody would believe. Please then get our party started!

NS: You’re right about that.

SBS: Monaco was one of the highlights of our trip!

RAE: How long were you there?

NS: We were only there for 1 night but man it was a crazy night.

RAE: You said you went just this past September, how was the weather?

NS: It’s a little chilly that time of year. [Average high of 23.8 °C (74.8 °F) and Average low 19.3 °C (66.7 °F)]

RAE: Where would you like to begin on this crazy trip? How did it start?

SBS: We arrived mid-day to this small but gorgeous country, and the Maponly word to describe it is FABULOUS!

NS: We drove in from Nice [France] which is an hour drive away. Later we learned that we could have taken a helicopter to Monaco instead. The helicopter would have cost about the same and been much more fun.

RAE: Hindsight on the helicopter is kind of a bummer. I am glad that did not damper your visit though.

SBS: We were also fortunate to be in town during the Monaco Yacht Show, where the world’s most fabulous mega yachts and yachtMonaco-Yacht-Show-2009-at-night- vendors gather.

RAE: What struck you most about the mega yachts?

NS: Some are 100 meters long.
Check out the video.
Our room was right in front of them.

RAE: That is amazing! Being there during yacht week had to be a non-stop party from dusk till dawn.

What started the party off for you both?

SBS: We only had one night in Monaco, so we decided to go BIG! We stayed at Hotel Port Palace which is located right along the Grand Prix circuit, and overlooks the Port Hercules. Keep in mind if you Yacht Show Eventsstay during this time, your view of the port is a bit hindered by the yachts and event booths. It was a treat however to have a perfect view of the private events taking place inside the yachts! Our room was a decent size, and service was great.

RAE: This seems very much like a movie.

SBS: Just wait. We decided to explore immediately, so we walked down through the port, had lunch at one of the street cafes, and made it up the hill where we did some shopping in the main square. We ended up at the famous Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo for an afternoon drink in the American Bar. This place was pure luxuryHotel de Paris with a classic, old Hollywood feel. All of the patrons were dressed to the nines! The most luxurious cars were parked outside, and the most fashionable people were walking the streets.

RAE: I am certain there is more fun to come. What happened next?

SBS: Of course. After our drinks we headed back to our room to freshen up for dinner and a night out. We got all dolled up and Buddha Bar Monacoheaded out for dinner at Buddha Bar which is located on a hillside with views of the water and fabulous buildings. Buddha bar has a super hip vibe, with gorgeous décor, and international music playing while you dine. By the time our dinner ended, the bar and lounge was packed! Make sure you make reservations in advance for this place! The food was delicious!

NS: Buddha bar was a great sushi place. It was super awesome, atmosphere and music. There are a few of them around the world but this is the only one that I have been to. They have a hookah bar in the front of the place.

RAE: Please, keep going. This is fun to hear about.

SBS: Our next stop was drinks at Nikki Beach at the Fairmont Hotel. Nikki BeachThis was a rooftop lounge with a “Miami feel”. We were able to get a table and order drinks with no wait. The place was filled with people from all over world. The view, again, was amazing. For our next stop, we wanted to go somewhere more authentic, so we decided to go back to the American Bar at Hotel de Paris. We had a blast! There was a live band, and the best people watching!

RAE: In all the fun, did you have a specific drink while there?

NS: It was our honeymoon and for our wedding one of my buddies Balvenie Thirtygot us Balvenie Thirty for the guys to drink on the wedding day. It’s a super expensive bottle of scotch and when we were at American bar in Hotel de Paris they had it there and I had a few glasses. That was the most I have ever spent on a glass of booze ever.

SBS: After drinks we danced the night away. We got back to our hotel sometime around 4 a.m. It was one of the best nights of our trip, and we will definitely go back one day!

RAE: Did you visit, and actually gamble in, the Monte Carlo Casino?

NS: No they were having some event there that night.

RAE: Seeing as how that is one of the most famous locations in Monaco I can believe that.

So what is your most solid memory of your time in Monaco?

NS: We were at Buddha bar and met some random old couple who invited us to go see Bob Sinclair, a DJ at some club on the water. Well after dinner we went to Nikki Beach, a roof top pool party at the Fairmont Hotel, and ordered a few drinks and the old couple calls and say, “Hey, let’s go.” So we close out our tab, go down to this place and they can’t get themselves or us in. I ask the guy what does it cost to get in and he tells me 200 for Sara & I. Then I ask the guy, “How much for a bottle?” and he says “300 but you still have to pay the 200 to get in.” At that point we said forget it and went to American Bar. We ended up dancing there with a house cover band that was awesome. You would love this place. Super historic and fun!

RAE: Well, I do love bands, historic places, and fun. Monaco is now on my list!

Did you sleep at all?

SBS: Not really.

NS: A few hours and then missed our train to Portofino so we hired a private car to drive us. That was not cheap at all. It was a 3 hour drive. Super pretty and super hung over.

RAE: I know that feeling of missing travel arrangements due to not feeling up to snuff.

Now Sara, this next question is just for your husband.

Nima…Like parties held at your house when we were at Chapman, was clothing optional for people?

NS: Actually the whole town is dressed up. Everyone is in nice clothes. I brought a suit on the trip for a wedding we were going to and especially for Monaco.

RAE: I should have guessed that. Oh well. Just like every party has to end sometime, this brings us to the conclusion to our time in Monaco.

Mrs. Sara, it has been a pleasure speaking with you. Your details were able to make the scene come alive.

SBS: Thank you. I hope it helps!

RAE: As for you, Nima, I have missed you. After all the time we spent together and everything we experienced, life is just not the same without you.Me & Nima

NS: Yeah brother it’s been a loooong ass time! I miss your face! I agree it’s just not the same. Next time you’re in town let’s try and catch up! Hopefully this is what you were wanting from us.

RAE: This was perfect! I cannot thank you both enough.

NS: Glad Sara & I could help.

History: Monaco was founded around the 6th century BC when nearby Phocaeans from Massalia started a colony. The name of the colony is derived from the local veneration of the Roman god HerculesHercules. As a result, a temple was constructed there, the temple of Hercules Monoikos, or House of Hercules. According to ancient myth, Hercules passed through Monaco and turned away the previous gods while he constructed the ancient path that passed from Spain to Italy.

The peoples living in this area were eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire, becoming part of the province of Maritime Alps. Although conquered by the Romans there were still many places never totally subdued. The Roman poet Virgil called it “that castled cliff, Monoecus by the sea” (Aeneid, VI.830). The Port of Hercules at Monaco was known and written about by the Roman naturalist and author Pliny the Elder.

Julius Caesar was quite familiar with the area and when heJulius Caesar completed his conquest of Gaul he boarded ship at the port in Monaco for his return to Rome, so he could campaign in Greece. The Ligurians were, mostly, loyal to the faction of Caesar and even rebels fought for him in his war against Pompey the Great.

Octavian who, became Augustus Caesar, completed the work of his great uncle in bringing Liguria firmly under Roman control. The itrophy001p1Romans built a road to connect the area with the rest of the empire. Today La Turbie is also the name of a commune in the French Alps-Maritimes department. The name comes roughly from ‘Trophy of Augustus’.

After the reign of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, rival emperors Otho and Vitellius fought a battle over control of Monaco, with Vitellius coming out as the victor. Monaco is not mentioned again after this until the reign of Emperor Pertinax. It has been rumored, but never confirmed, that Pertinax was born in Monaco. It could be due to the two fortified towers he built in Monaco to defend Port Hercules. Following Pertinax, Emperor Septimus Severus also built fortifications in the area. Emperor Diocletian, known for the persecution of Christians, is said to have caused the death of Saint Devota, patron saint of Monaco and the House of Grimaldi.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Monaco and the surrounding coastal areas were perpetually attacked by various invaders and the native population fled inland. During its history, Monoikos passed hands a number of times. It became known as Monaco in the Middle Ages when a fortress was built on the Rock in the 13th century.

Monaco is very Roman in style, designed after the revival of all things Roman during the Napoleonic era in France. Monaco was alsoMap_of_the_Holy_Roman_Empire_in_the_10th_century associated with the Holy Roman Empire. Monaco’s recorded history began in 1215 when the Ghibellines of Genoa colonized it after receiving sovereignty over the area from Emperor Henry VI. It is the second smallest country (by area) in the world; only Vatican City is smaller. This small country is approximately the same size as Central Park in New York City. Monaco is also the world’s second smallest monarchy, and is the most densely populated country in the world.

And with that Where To? Wednesday finishes another addition. It has been wonderful catching up with a great friend, and experiencing a new location. Please join us next time for a new experience with a new guest. Until then, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Hiking Bulgaria

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! We are happy that you decided to join us another today’s episode of Where To? Wednesday. If this is your first time with us, feel free to check out our site later. Our guest today has been all over and has many stories to share. She is a family friend whom I have known since I was a little boy back in California.CZ Please give a big, warm Rome Across Europe welcome to Ms. Cristin Zeisler.

Rome Across Europe: I know you have traveled to Europe, and just a lot of places in general. Where in Europe would you like to take us today?

Cristin Zeisler: Mmm. Let’s go to Bulgaria.

RAE: Oh, that is perfect! We have yet to venture there.

Exactly what part are we going?

Cave EntranceCZ: Northern Bulgaria. Magura.

RAE: Like the Magura Cave?

CZ: Yup! Exactly. It’s in the Vidin Province. We could talk more generally about that region, too, I suppose.

RAE: Let’s start with the cave. What drew you to go to such a secluded place to begin with?

CZ: It was in 2007. My best friend was working for the U.S. Embassy in Sofia at the time. I’d already travelled pretty extensively to all the “standard” places in Bulgaria while I was serving with the Peace Corps in Ukraine (2002-2004) and at the time I visited her, I was training for a Colorado River/Grand Canyon rafting/hiking expedition. So, putting all that together, my friend suggested that we head to the mountains to go exploring. They were really more like hills though.

RAE: You have the most interesting back-story for where we are headed, by far.

So take us to the mountains. What did you do while there? Did you purposely seek out the cave?

CZ: We stayed 2 or 3 nights, I think. We spent 6-8 hours each day hiking and bouldering, with a couple impromptu yoga sessions thrown in when we got to especially scenic overlooks. We drank a lot of wine.

We spent a surprising amount of time exploring theBelogradchik Fortress Belogradchik Fortress. When we first got to the fortress my friend and her co-worker showed their diplomatic cards, the ticket seller told us to go check out the cave if we had time

RAE: Did you know about the prehistoric paintings before you got to the cave?

CZ: Not really, no. The ticket seller just told my friends that it was “worth seeing” and gave them some special pass cards because of their diplomatic cards. We were game for adventure; that’s all.

RAE: If you saw them, what did you think? Were they impressive?

Magura Cave PaintingsCZ: Oh we saw them, alright! I’m not sure if “impressive” is the right word, but it was certainly very curious and maybe even awe inspiring to think that these drawings were made with BAT S**T.

RAE: Really, guano? That makes sense. Here in Austin, TX we know about bats.

How did they color it?

CZ: No one knows for sure or at least no one we met did, and thatPrehistoric Painting they’d lasted so long. That was striking for two reasons: 1) The pure physics/biology involved (why didn’t they dissolve?) and 2) How did they escape being stolen/vandalized? Bulgaria has a long history of poaching and looting. How did these drawings/paintings escape that fate? THAT part was impressive…

RAE: Amazing! Did anything else happen in the cave worth mentioning?

Stalagmites-StalagtitesCZ: It’s actually like a big cave complex. Not just one cave. Some sections had really cool stalagmites and stalactites!

RAE: Were you prepared for the inner temperature of the cave which is constantly 11-12 °C?

CZ: When I travel I’m always ready for weather ranging in temps from 8-30 °C. It’s all about the layers; always have a wool cap in your bag and a tank top next to your skin

RAE: Apparently a part of the cave is now used for ageing sparkling and red wines, labeled Magura. Were you able to get your hands on Magura Wineryany of it?

CZ: Really? That’s cool. There was like ZERO infrastructures when I was there. Makes sense though. Lots of wine in the region, which we liberally enjoyed, plus the cave temps would make for ideal storage. Good to hear that the Bulgarians figured it out and made use of their resources!

RAE: What happened after you left the cave?

CZ: Well, the cave is really out in the middle of nowhere and some of us were really hungry while others were more inclined to continue Hills Around Magurato explore/hike along the various not-quite-trails. So we kinda compromised and walked around, admiring the scenery for about an hour.

It was sunny and warm and green with lots of yellow mustard-like plants in bloom. We then headed back to wherever we were staying and had a big ole feast of grilled meats and veggies. The part was the bread. It was the best bread any of us had had in Bulgaria; very soft, not rock-like. And wine, of course. Always wine.

RAE: Good call with the wine. In any foreign country wine is usuallyWine Bladder safer than water. The Roman Army gave their soldiers skins of wine while campaigning. If it was good enough for them…

What time of year was this?

CZ: I was there in July.

RAE: So would you say the weather was more comparable to California, or was it cooler there in Bulgaria during the summer?

CZ: Oh, no. It was pretty darn warm!

RAE: Interesting. I would have thought it would be cooler in the summer due to its elevation. We learned another new fact today!

So we are now headed down the mountain, or large hill as you put it, what happens next?

CZ: We get in the car and go grub! We’re hot and hungry and we spent way more time in the cave, and exploring the surrounding area, than we planned!

RAE: After this did you go to any town or city to hang out?

Belogradchik Fortress from AboveCZ: We stayed near the Belogradchik Fortress for a night and then headed back to Sofia because two of the people in the car had to work.

RAE: That is kind of a bummer.

CZ: It was a very scenic drive though. We stopped at a few charmingDragalevtsi Monastery monasteries along the way. These monasteries just happen to make bread, or cheese, or wine, or beeswax candles, depending on whatever their specialty was. And, there was a really spooky abandoned mine that looked like it would make an awesome horror movie set.

Sofia, BulgariaI hung out in Sophia for another day or so, and then went to Veliko Tornovo before heading to Greece. And, come to think of it, that trip to Bulgaria actually started in Varna, which was not really planned, but there was trouble getting out of Odessa at the time.

RAE: You can always go back to make that movie!

What did you do in the towns?

CZ: What did I do in the towns?! Good Lord…a LOT! I hung out with artists and dancers. I made cheese, drank wine, walked a lot. I took loads of pictures, drank more wine, and marveled at old buildings. I never got comfortable though with all the memorial fliers commemorating dead people. Those seemed to proliferate in the smaller towns.

RAE: That can go in your horror movie. Fits right in.

Would you suggest any place to stop?

CZ: Would I suggest any place to stop? Wherever you see wine andTavern sign Veliko Tarnovo cheese signs hanging from buildings, stop there. Particularly the ones that are hand-painted and seem a bit sketchy, those are the best. Treasures await you there!

RAE: That is some great advice. Most people, especially when traveling on tours, never seem to venture past the main tourist spots to mingle with the locals. Having “treasures” in these local spots would be a gift.

So you are an “off the beaten path” kind of traveler?

CZ: Sort of. I generally plot a path toward some sort of fairly well-known target, but I allow myself a HUGE amount of time and space to get there so that I can take advantage of whatever else might spark my interest along the way. Sometimes those diversionary paths are SO interesting that I don’t necessarily get back to the main target, or I get to it later than “planned”.

RAE: I know you have a blog about your adventures, especially bicycling.

Would that be how you also train for your adventures, like the Grand Canyon training, here in the states?

CZ: No. If I am training for something, it is always “eyes on the prize,” very focused, no diversions.

RAE: You mentioned that you stopped to do yoga while heading up to the cave. Is that typical? Incorporating some sort of physical activity into an outing?

CZ: The yoga pause was initiated by someone else in our car, the girlfriend of my friend’s co-worker. She knew what she was doing and the rest of us just followed along because it seemed like a perfect setting and opportunity.

RAE: Gotcha.

How did Bulgaria feel? Are the people friendly? Do the people understand and speak English?

CZ: Judging Bulgarians against their neighbors, I would say that they Bulgaria-mapare MUCH friendlier than Ukrainians, but not nearly as friendly as Turks. Outside of Sofia and Veliko Tornovo, it was rare to find English-fluent folks.

My friend was quite proficient in Bulgarian though, due to her work, and I could get by pretty well with my Russian.

RAE: Would you go back again to visit if you could?

CZ: Probably not. I’ve already been there twice and the world is big! Got more places to see! I loved both visits and am very glad to have seen so much of the country, but at this point it sits pretty firmly on my “been there/done that” list. There are lots more places to go.

RAE: Thank you so much Cristin. It was a pleasure to interview you and nice to hear from you again as well.

CZ: My pleasure! Do I get a preview before you post it?

RAE: Do you want to? Nobody has ever asked that before, but we would be happy to oblige.

CZ: Yeah, it would be great to get a look at what you pull together before it goes live, just in case I wasn’t clear about something.

RAE: Deal! Again, thank you very much. We wish you well on your future training, travels, and other endeavors.

That wraps up another Where To? Wednesday with another new tale. We here at Rome Across Europe would again like to Cristin Zeisler for sharing her experience with us. We shall have to get her back again in the future. If you have a story of a place in Europe you have been to please tell us. We would love to hear it. You may become our monthly headliner. Thank you, and till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History: Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, began appearing in the region during the Iron Age. Most of their numerous tribes were united around 500 BC by King Teres, but they were eventually subjugated by Alexander the Great.

In 188 BC, the Romans invaded Thrace, and warfare continued untilThrace 46 AD when Rome finally conquered the region. In 46 AD, the Romans established the province of Thracia. This is when Belogradchik Fortress was constructed.

Initially, the fortress served for surveillance and not strictly defense. The rock formations in the area served as a natural protection, as fortified walls were practically only built from the northwest and southeast.

By the 4th century, the Thracians had a composite indigenous identity, as Christian “Romans” who preserved some of their ancient pagan rituals. Thraco-Romans became a dominant group in the galeriusregion, and eventually yielded several military commanders and emperors such as Galerius and Constantine I the Great.Constantine

Urban centers became well-developed, especially the territories of what is today Sofia due to the abundance of mineral springs. The influx of immigrants from around the empire enriched the local cultural landscape near the Black Sea coast.

Sometime before 300 AD, Diocletian Diocletianfurther divided Thracia into four smaller provinces. Later in the 4th century, a group of Goths arrived in northern Bulgaria and settled there. It was here that the Gothic bishop Ulfilas translated the Bible from Greek to Gothic, thus creating the Gothic alphabet. This was the first book written in a Germanic language, and for this reason at least one historian refers to Ulfilas as “the father of Germanic literature”.

Due to the rural nature of the local population, Roman control of the region remained weak. In the 5th century, Attila‘s Huns attacked the territories of today’s Bulgaria and pillaged many Roman settlements. The Roman Empire had been divided, with the area now under Byzantine control, but by this time Christianity had already spread in the area.byzantine_empire_palaiologan_double_headed_eagle

During the 6th century, the traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential, but Christian philosophy and culture were dominant and began to replace it. By the end of the 6th century, Avars organized regular incursions into northern Bulgaria, which were a prelude to the swarming arrival of the Slavs.

From the 7th century, Greek became the predominant language in the Eastern Roman Empire’s administration, Church and society, replacing Latin.

Pregnant a Roma

Welcome back to another Where To? Wednesday here on Rome Across Europe! We are very excited about this edition since we are going back to Rome! There are other stops included on this adventure, but this makes it back-to-back trips to Roma!

Aside from venturing back to Rome today, we also get to talk withKourt & Ryan my baby cousin. Obviously she is the youngest of all my cousins, both maternal & paternal, but she is one of my family members that is quite similar to me. She moved back east and was married one day after my birthday just about a year & a half ago. We have not seen each other in quite some time but we have that connection that just cannot fail. Rome Across Europe-rs, please welcome Mrs. Kourtney (Carlberg) Garner!

Rome Across Europe: Welcome to Where To? Wednesday, where would you like to take us today?

Kourtney Garner: My husband [Ryan] and I were lucky enough to go to Rome, Florence and Positano. We were also planning to go to Tuscany, but we found out I was pregnant and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the wine. I liked each city for certain reasons.

Rome because of the historical aspect and having the opportunity to see a Papal Mass and shake hands with the Papa Francis. Still can’t believe we were able to do that.

Florence for the food and Positano for relaxation. If I had all the money in the world, I would love to have a place in Positano. I could go to in summer, it is heaven.

On the way back from PompeiiPositano to Rome, we stopped by Pompeii, incredible to see history frozen in time.

RAE: That all sounds like a fabulous trip, but there is a question I MUST ask.

How did you end up shaking the hand of Pope Francis? That has to be a good story.

KG: Ryan has a friend who knew a Cardinal that gave us tickets to the Papal Mass. We went thinking “Cool. We will get to see a Mass.” Well we kept on getting ushered closer and closer until we were inPope Francis the front row, on the same level as the Pope.

We were so embarrassed at how underdressed we were. At the end of the Mass the Pope came around and it was just one of those “I can’t believe this happened to us” moments and he shook our hands.

Even if we didn’t have tickets up close, I would suggest going to a Papal Mass. Fascinating to see people from all over the world coming together.

RAE: That was exquisitely said. Thank you.

Why did you & Ryan choose to go on this trip, and especially Italy?

KG: I have been before when I studied abroad in Spain. I went to Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence with two girlfriends in 5 days. Crazy, right?!

Since that trip I always wanted to go back since it was a whirlwind of a trip. Ryan had never been and we both love to travel, love food and love wine so it was an easy choice for us.

RAE: I can imagine it was.

What time of year did you and Ryan go?

Us in PositanoKG: We went in May, it was great weather. In Positano we were able to lie out and enjoy the sunshine.

RAE: From what I hear the spring is the best time to visit. You are both very lucky for that experience.

Did you spend an equal amount of time in each location?

KG: About three days in each place and two days for traveling.

RAE: So basically long enough to see most of want you both wanted, but not quite long enough for everything. The downside of having a life to get back to in the states.

I imagine you & Ryan did some tourist-type of things on your trip.

KG: Yup. In Rome we made point to walk to all the “touristy” places trevi-fountaini.e. the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Vatican City, Pantheon and the Roman Forum. By walking around we discovered restaurants and stores tucked away on side streets.

RAE: All great things to visit.

KG: The biggest touristy thing we did was bought tickets from the Colosseum website to do a group tour, by doing so we were able to go to the dungeon and the third level. If you don’t, you can’t see the dungeons. I suggest [doing] this instead of buying tickets from the Florence-Duomomen dressed in Roman garb outside.

In Florence, we saw the Arno, the incredible and stunning Duomo. We climbed the stairs to the top of it. We also went to the Galileo museum, Academia Gallery, where the David Statue is, Uffizi, and the Da Vinci museum.

RAE: You saw quite a lot, and the tip for Il Colosseo was perfect. ThatIl Colossei was something I missed out on during my trip to Rome.

You mentioned that each place had its own charm, which stood out the most for you?

KG: The food in Florence and the history in Rome. And I loved everything in Positano…the food, beaches, small windy roads and local shops.

RAE: Are you the type of traveler that plans everything down to the minute or just goes with the proverbial flow?

KG: [Ryan] planned the outline of the trip but once we were there we knew what we had to see. I also had fun walking, exploring and asking locals where to go to eat.

RAE: So you seem to adjust once you get to your location, even while pregnant?

KG: Yes, especially since I was very nauseous from being pregnant. We didn’t have a choice. I rallied as much as I could to get the most out of our trip.

RAE: Kudos to you, Cousin, for being so adaptable.

In Rome, especially, the locals speak English quite well.

Did you attempt to speak any Italian?

KG: Yes, we tried with the basic “Hello” and “Thank You” however most of the locals spoke English, as you mentioned. I find that so impressive.

RAE: What was your favorite part of the trip?

KG: The food in Florence and Positano. Just seeing history all over. And for Ryan the wine was a favorite too!

RAE: What was it about the food that made it so memorable?

Restaurant in Florence, Buca MarioKG: Best pizza I have ever had was in Osteria Gusta, Florence. The local spot across the Arno that locals told us to check out had both locals and tourists packed at this spot. A little bit more on the expensive side was Buca Mario in Florence, incredible food such as the Florentine Steak.

And Il Latini is a must for dinner; you should make a reservation but lots of great food. They place you at tables with other guests so you make new friends. We met a lovely couple from England. And the servers were wonderful and gave us some limoncello on the house. Once again, if only I could have had it.

Gioia-Luisia-limoncello-cremeRAE: I love “family-style” seating. Here is Texas only the best of BBQ places have family-style seating.

You definitely missed out on the limoncello. That is something EVERYONE should have, at least once.

KG: Oh, I didn’t mention the food in Positano. We splurged in Positano and stayed at an incredible hotel Il San Pietro di Positano. We had breakfast and lunch at this hotel. Breakfast was part of our package. The croissants were freshly baked. Lunch was amazing, the best mozzarella and fresh vegetables. The lemons in Positano are massive and used in a lot of the dishes I ordered, everything just tasted so fresh.

We did not dine at our hotel for dinner. We decided to go into town to do so. The hotel provides a shuttle to town since it is about five minute drive away and to get to town. Plus you have to go along the winding roads. We ate twice at this restaurant called Pizza from Chez BlackChez Black on the water and I had some delicious pasta and of course we tried the pizza.

RAE: This is making my mouth water just thinking of it.

Did you have any gelato?

KG: I have the biggest sweet tooth, but when I was pregnant I had an aversion to sweets so I didn’t have so much gelato. If I didn’t have an aversion I probably would have had it every day if not twice a day. I had a Straticella flavor in Rome. Thinking about it now it soundsStracciatella Gelato delicious, wish I enjoyed it more when I was there.

RAE: Straticella gelato is my favorite flavor! Gosh, I want to get to Rome immediately. Like right now.

I know you were pregnant so maybe you didn’t have, or maybe you don’t even like, coffee. But if you had coffee please share what you think about it in Italy.

KG: I love coffee. It was one of those things like the gelato though that I didn’t get to enjoy as much. From Ry’s point of view, it’s like Red Winethe wine; he thought the house wine was delicious which is saying a lot because he knows his Italian wine. You can’t go wrong with the coffee in Italy, it was all delicious.

RAE: Was there a part of the trip that you just did not enjoy at all?

KG: That I couldn’t drink the wine, although I did have a server tell me it was ok [Laughs]. We planned this trip before I was pregnant. IKourtney Pregnant obviously think you can enjoy this trip without drinking because I still did. But my husband and I love wine, and at times, I wish I could have enjoyed it with him. We will just have to go back.

RAE: It seems as if everyone who has been to Rome, or anywhere in Italy for that matter, comes home with that exact sentiment of “We have to go back”.

Now that you are a mother, would you take your little girl with you if you were to go back?

KG: Yes to Rome and Florence. The hotel in Positano was not kid friendly; it would be a great place for a honeymoon though.

Brynn HarperRAE: If you could make your life work like it is now, would you, Ryan and little Brynn Harper ever move to one of the three locations? Why would you go, or what would make you stay?

KG: I like the idea of Positano but I think it would be on a part time basis, maybe as a summer time place. I wouldn’t want to be away from my family and like the idea of raising our family here in the US.

RAE: What is a MUST see or do in from the locations you experienced?

KG: In Rome it would be the Vatican, Colosseum, and Pantheon. I feel like you have to hit all the big sites in Rome. My friends wenttrevi-fountain-1 when they were fixing up the Trevi Fountain so they didn’t get to see it. I feel like my trip wouldn’t be the same without seeing any of the big tourist stops.

In Florence, I think you have to see the Duomo and the statue of David. Honestly, Ry and I would probably go back just for the pizza at Osteria Gusta in Florence.

RAE: That sounds like me. On your first visit there, if pressed for time, the big sites are a must.

Was there something in any of the three places that you wanted to see but didn’t?

capri-terraceKG: In Positano we wanted to do a day visit to Capri but didn’t have enough time.

RAE: Capri would be a wonderful place to visit. The island and town have been a resort since the days of the Roman Republic.

Is there something you would tell first time visitors to these locations to steer clear of?

KG: It was fun for us to walk and get lost a bit in Florence and Rome. I would avoid getting food around the really touristy locations and try to get something off the beaten path. You get more of the authentic Italian food and feel that way. And I could now have the local wines.Wine & Water

RAE: Looking back is there something you wished you would have done, like aside from the places you visited?

KG: We talk about going back to Italy and trying to see Venice and Tuscany. If we had all the time in the world we would have loved to do this in one trip but 10 days was too short to pack all the cities in.

RAE: Jenn & I started our Honeymoon in Venice, and then went to Rome. We could have stayed so much longer in both spots. Whenever Jenn & I have kids, all of us should have a family-style trip to Tuscany or something. Then you could also have some local wine.

KG: I would absolutely love that.

RAE: I really enjoyed you sharing your trip, and getting to know a bit about Ryan as well. Funny enough, you are only the second person I’ve interviewed to talk about Rome for our site called Rome Across Europe. And even better, it was back-to-back interviews.

KG: Well that is very cool. I’m glad we could share that.

And with that we bring another Where To? Wednesday to a close. On behalf of Rome Across Europe, I would again like to thank Kourtney and Ryan Garner. This was a great trip to share with our readers. It was also a pleasure to catch up with my baby cousin. Until next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History: The History of Rome is said to have seven kings before the formation of the Roman Republic. The span of time began with Romulus, in 753 BC, and ended with Tarquinius Superbus, in 509 BC. The succession was Romulus (753-717 BC), Numa Pompilius (716-673 BC), Tullus Hostilius (673-642 BC), Ancus Marcius (640-616 BC), Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 BC), Servius Tullius (678-535 BC), and finally Tarquinius Superbus (535-509 BC).

Seven Kings of Rome

Little is certain about the history of the kingdom, as nearly no written records from that time survive. The histories about this time that were written during the Republic and Empire are largely based on legends.

The insignia of the Roman Kings were twelve lictors wielding the fasces bearing axes, the right to sit upon a Curule chair, the purple Toga Picta, red shoes, and a white diadem around the head. Of all these insignia, the most important was the purple toga. The ‘wearing of the purple’ was something that was then adopted by all of Rome’s Emperors.

Florence was founded in 59 BC as a settlement for former soldiers who were allotted land by Julius Caesar in the rich farming valley of Piazza della Repubblica, Florencethe Arno. Dubbed Florentia, the city was built in the style of a military camp with a castrum of grid pattern and the main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica.

This can still be seen in the city center. Situated at the Via Cassia, Florentia was in a perfect position. It enabled the town to rapidly expand as a commercial center. Emperor Diocletian made Florentia capital of the province of Tuscia in the 3rd century AD.

The origins of Positano, like those of many other towns, are lost in the mists of time. It makes for a difficult time trying to distinguish between history and legend, although artifacts have been found on Positano dating human inhabitance here to the Paleolithic era. TheNeptune most commonly believed myth tells us that Positano was founded by Neptune for the sake of the nymph Pasitea, whom he loved.

About 500 BC it is certain that Phoenicians and Acheans used the beach at Positano as a safe resting point while travelling westwards. An The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Positanounknown Roman built a rich patrician villa about 100 BC. It was near the ‘great’ beach, which has now been buried by gardens and by the church devoted to Our Lady of the Assumption.

In 26 AD the Emperor Tiberius moved to Capri, but his paranoia of being poisoned caused him to send a boat to Positano to bring back “safe” flour for bread. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Positano became a part of the Republic of Amalfi, the first maritime republic, and went through flourishing period, owing to the commerce with the other countries of the Mediterranean area.


Rome…A Religious Experience

Ciao and welcome Rome Across Europe! After all these episodes of Where To? Wednesday, the day has finally come. We are going to Rome! Stiamo andando a Roma!

To get us to the Eternal City we have a close friend of mine that I have known since our days at Chapman University. She was one of the first people to welcome me to campus and make sure I was doing okay. Her personality can charm the pants off of just about anyone. To top it off, not only is she taking us on our initial trip to Rome but she is un Italiana. Please give a big Rome Across Europe welcome for Mrs. Julianne Weick Maunder!JWM1

Rome Across Europe: So lovely to have you here Mrs. Maunder. Where are you taking us today? Dove ci assumendo oggi?

Julianne Weick Maunder: [Laughs] Well, is there a specific country/city/region you’d like me to talk about?

RAE: Anywhere in Europe. You are the guide today.

JWM: Oh…hmmm. So many amazing places to choose from.

RAE: Whatever place comes to mind as something you would enjoy sharing with others.

JWM: I think Rome is my most favorite city to explore.


RAE: Ours too! You are actually the first guest to talk about Rome for RomeAcrossEurope.

When did you go?

JWM: I’ve been a few times. The first time was in 1995, then 1999, 2001 and 2005.

RAE: You were not joking when you said it was your favorite city. That is super impressive.

Where they all during the same time of year? Or did they vary?

JWM: Around the same months: May, June and August.

Roman SummerRAE: What did you think of the weather? Compare it to California. Was it similar? Hotter? Cooler?

JWM: HOT! August was actually the most miserable. May was much better, still very warm, but better.

I do think the weather in Rome was the most uncomfortable of any city I visited. But I didn’t care.

RAE: Interesting. You’d think that since it is farther away from the equator the weather would be milder.

JWM: You’d think. Or maybe it was just my luck?

RAE: Why did you not care about the weather? Because it was Rome?

JWM: Yes because it was Rome, and there was so much to see. The heat was worth it.

RAE: We seem to be two sides of the same denarius on this trip.caesar denarius

JWM: Coin? Sure. I think if you’re going to go to Rome in a summer month, you must stay at least 5-7 days so you can tour slowly.

RAE: Good tip.

I know why I love Rome so much. What was it about Rome that made you want to go?

ItaliaJWM: Well, my family is Italian, so the first time I was in Italy we visited family in Southern Italy. Since it was my first time, my mother and grandfather took me on a tour of the whole country.

My second time was with my parents on a cruise. Then in 2001 and 2005 I went with friends who had never been to Europe before, so I wanted to make sure they saw Rome.

RAE: You and your family are Italian; do any of you speak the language?

JWM: My grandparents did, and that got us around when I went with them. My mother can understand a little. And I can read a little bit, and ask a few touristy questions, but that’s it.

RAE: What drew you there so many times?

JWM: The reason I keep going back is because of its beauty, history and culture. The architecture is outstanding and so interesting. The history and the ruins fascinate me and the culture is MY culture! The people are amazing and the food is out of this world.

Oh and I also keep going back because it’s like the motherland for us Catholics [Smiles and laughs].

RAE: That is a perfect answer!

JWM: In 2005, I saw John Paul [II]’s grave at the Vatican. That was inspiring.Vatican

RAE: Rome, and Italy overall, has churches everywhere that are almost tourist locations.

As a fellow Catholic, does religion still play a factor when you travel? Do you try to find churches to visit when traveling?

JWM: That’s a good question, and I don’t think for me the churches, other than the Vatican, make my decision to travel to a specific country. I love visiting churches and reading about their history and what not, but I don’t pick countries based on religion.

RAE: While attending mass recently the Father at my parish mentioned going to mass does not have to stop just because you are no longer at your church.

Mass in St Peter's BasilicaHave you ever attended mass at a church in Rome, or anywhere, when traveling?

JWM: Not in Rome. I would have LOVED that actually, but the timing was never good.

The only country where I attended mass was in Ireland. That was awesome! My brother-in-law married an Irish girl and they got married in the biggest cathedral in Ireland. At least that is what her family told me. And mass was really nice. They said the whole “Our Father” in Gaelic, which completely threw me for a loop [Laughs].

RAE: I can imagine. That is still a very neat experience, I’m sure.

JWM: Yes, Ireland is BEAUTIFUL!

RAE: As for Rome, there is so much goingNeighborhood on. For me it is this huge city with a small feel to it.

How was it for you?

JWM: Yes, I feel the same. Every corner you turn seems like you’re in a little town of its own. Like where the Pantheon is. All the little restaurants, vendors and shops are right there. It’s like the whole block is a little village.

roman_pantheonRAE: I am so happy you mentioned the Pantheon!

I had studied architecture and knew about the history before going there. My wife had no detailed knowledge of it, but upon entering she started to cry. It was almost as if this powerful and religious feeling came about her.

What do you think about the Pantheon? There is no wrong answer unless you say “It’s awful” [Grins].

JWM: Right?! An A-Maz-Zing structure! To think it’s almost 2000Portico of the Pantheon years old! The preservation alone takes your breath away. I almost find myself speechless when I see it because it’s just SOOOO OLD! It’s not like the other ruins in the city, which are, well, ruins. The Pantheon is still a complete structure.

RAE: Totally agree without any doubt or hesitation.

I am going to put you on the spot.

What would you say is your favorite place in Rome? It can be new or old. It can be the Pantheon even.

JWM: The Catacombs of Rome.

RAE: Why does it stand out the most for you?

JWM: I know it’s random, but I’ve only been once. I keep wanting to go back again, but there is never time and whomever I’m with doesn’t want to go because they think it is creepy [Laughs]. And it is, but it’s just so fascinating.

RAE: I get it. There are years of history there and so many stories with the people that made Rome, well, Rome.

JWM: Well, I guess going back to the whole religious talk…A whole Catholic community underground in hiding is fascinating to me. Chapels and graves, all very interesting.

RAE: Several Saints within the Church have their final resting place there. Not too shabby of place to see at all.

040You mentioned the little restaurants earlier. What would you tell people about how to eat when in Rome?

JWM: How to eat?! Oooohhhh just EAT! EAT! EAT! Or as my grandmother would always say “Mangia, Mangia, Mangia!”

Try everything. Every type of regular pasta, stuffed pasta, every type of sauce and every type of Italian wine! Italian food in Italy is NOTHING like it is here in America! Oh…and the coffee/espresso in Italy is to DIE for.

RAE: Agreed.

JWM: As they say, “When in Rome…”

RAE: I was never much of fan for wine before, you know that. Once we went to Rome and had the wine with our meals, it was different.

JWM: Yes, always take the wine suggestion from the waiter. Italian wine is my favorite.

RAE: Now we even attempt to make our own pizzas making certain to have a bottle of Italian red as a pairing.

JWM: [Laughs] Pizza isn’t Italian. I mean it is, but it’s Italian/American.

My mom said when she was in Italy back in the 60’s, she went to a restaurant and asked if they had pizza…and the waiter looked at her and said “You want-a Pizza? You-a go to America!”

PS… History of Pizza…I guess it really is Italian, but their pizza is not like the pizza here in America.Colosseum with traditional pizza

The word “pizza” was first documented in 997 AD in Gaeta, Italy, and successively in different parts of Central and South Italy.

RAE: I like the accent by the way.

What is your take on coffee and gelato being on almost every corner?

JWM: I LOVE COFFEE and I LOVE GELATO! My friend Mindee and I went to Rome in 2005, and we made that a regular after meal rome-gelatosnack!

RAE: Do you have a favorite gelato flavor?

JWM: Nothing special…I just really love chocolate.

RAE: I am a huge fan of Stracciatella. I was also very much impressed by limoncello. Both the gelato and the liquor.

JWM: Ooohhhh what’s that like? Never tasted it. I don’t like “fruity” gelato though.limoncello

RAE: Limoncello is not sour. It just has a certain, well, freshness about it.

Would you tell a first-time visitor to Rome to steer clear of anything?

JWM: YES. Be careful on the underground train and buses! In the subway my friend was pick-pocketed by a 6 year old child. Thank gosh all he had in his pocket was chapstick. He had his money belt under his shirt. The homeless gypsy women send their children to go the dirty work…Soooo sad, and dangerous.

And then the buses! One door is to get on and another door, on the other end of the bus, is to get off. My friend’s camera got stolen when a man went onto the bus. The thief went through the entering door, grabbed my friend’s camera, and then went through the other door to exit the bus.

Be very aware. I find Rome safe, but there are lots of pick-pockets! Always wear a money belt. Don’t carry a wallet in your pockets. And hold on tight to your purses and cameras!

RAE: Sorry to hear about your friends and there negative experiences. However, it is nice to share with our readers so it can be prevented in the future.

On a more positive note, what would you tell someone visiting Rome for the first time? Aside from “Get more time to stay”?

JWM: [Laughs] Yes, you need at least 5-7 days. I’d suggest you take an organized city tour, at least one of the days, so you can have transportation and a guide to all the obvious spots. AND when Musei Vaticanivisiting the Vatican, also get a guided tour because you won’t always know what you’re looking at.

RAE: You are spot-on about the Vatican. Even spending the little extra money to be with a tour will help you bypass those waiting just to get a ticket to get in. Once inside it is up to you to stay with the tour or venture off on your own.

JWM: Agreed.

RAE: Well Julianne, I do not want to take up any more of your time. I know the little ones are already put to bedyou’re your moments to yourself are precious.

JWM: No problem! This was a nice chat. Mark is working tonight, so this was the perfect evening for an interview!

RAE: Thank you again for sharing your experience in Rome.

JWM: No problem. If you need any other cities covered for the future, just let me know.

RAE: Sounds good! Take care of the family and tell the hubby thanks for letting me borrow you for a bit. Have a good night.

JWM: You got it. Have a good night!

With that another episode of Where To? Wednesday comes to a close. We, again, want to give a HUGE “Thank You” to our special guest, Mrs. Julianne Weick Maunder. It was great to talk to you and even more fun to hear your take on Rome. We hope you all enjoyed the first trip to Rome as much as we had sharing it. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Romulus & RemusHistory: It was the twenty-first of April in the year 753 BC. Twin brothers have been working on building their city. These twins, Romulus and Remus, have a unique story; a story that makes them stand out amongst their fellow citizens.

Rhea Silvia, a vestal priestess, is forced into this perpetual virginityAeneas'_Flight_from_Troy by Latium’s king fearing that any of her descendants will attempt to take his kinship. Rhea Silvia is of ancient descent from Prince Aeneas, the fugitive from Troy that began Italia.

MarsIt seems, though, that Mars seduces Rhea Silvia and impregnates her. Ancient deities were known for such acts amongst humans.

When Rhea Silvia gives birth to twin boys of remarkable beauty, the king orders their death. To avoid direct blood-guilt, the king charges a servant with the deed of killing the twins. However, this servant cannot bring himself to harm the baby boys. He places them in a basket and leaves it on the banks of the Tiber. The river rises in flood and carries the twins downstream, unharmed.

The river deity Tiberinus makes the basket catch in the roots of a figRomulus & Remus Given Shelter by Faustulus & Acca Larentia tree that grows in the swamp at the base of the Palatine Hill. The twins are found and suckled by a she-wolf and fed by a woodpecker. Then a shepherd named Faustulus discovers the babies and takes them to his hut. This is where he and his wife Acca Larentia raise them as their own children.

The twins grow into men and discover their true heritage. They are not shepherds; they are princess and the true rulers of the land. After taking down the king that wanted them killed as newborns, Romulus and Remus start building a city on the Tiber where the river forms a Z-shape curve that contains an island where the river 7 Hills of Romecan be forded.

This would make their city great since it was at a crossroads of traffic following the river valley and of traders traveling north and south on the west side of the peninsula. Their city also sat in a valley protected by Seven Hills: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Viminal.

After all of their strife and triumphs, Remus criticized the new wallBrothers Fighting Romulus was constructing, and then jumps over it. This was the final insult to the new city and to Romulus himself. Romulus attacks Remus and kills him, saying “So perish every one that shall hereafter leap over my wall”.

Romulus buried Remus with both honor and regret. The city is completed and is named Roma, after its founder Romulus. Roman ab urbe condita began from the founding of the city. After his death at the age of 54, Romulus was deified as the war god Quirinus. He served not only as one of the three major gods of Rome, but also as the deified likeness of the city of Rome.

Umbria – Impacting Art Since 1,000 BC

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe and another edition of Where To? Wednesday. So far each episode of 2015 has had its own theme to the interview. There has been the exploration of one’s self via travel; seeing family while also visiting new places; food as a way to understand a culture; and how to life in a new setting to impact your life. Today the focus is on art, as you maybe could have guessed by the title.

This is an exciting interview for me. Not only is today’s guest and friend of mine, he is also the first guest from the country in which weEnzo Selvaggi will explore today. He now lives in California, which is where we met. For today’s Where To? Wednesday please give a big Rome Across Europe welcome to Mr. Enzo Selvaggi.

Rome Across Europe: So Enzo where are you taking us today?

Enzo Selvaggi: I’m having difficulty choosing between Umbria and the South of Italy.

RAE: Both are superb choices.

Where in Southern Italy would you choose?

ES: The Region of Calabria, mainly, on the road to Rome. Shall we go with Umbria?

RAE: Calabria is the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula and all roads lead to Rome.

It’s a coin toss. Wherever you have a stronger connection with is my suggestion.

ES: I grew up in Calabria as a child, so let’s choose Umbria. I traveled there for the first time as an adult, and discovered it as many of your readers would, or would like to.

RAE: Great reasoning for your choice. When did you first visit Umbria?

ES: Last year, in May.

RAE: That had to be a gorgeous sight in the countryside with some nice weather. Am I correct in this statement?

ES: Very much so. The trip started in Tarquinia. It’s an hour north of umbria_political_mapRome, by the coast, which ethnically, like Umbria, was Etruscan territory

Perugia in particular is a beautiful city. Small. Accessible.

While surrounding towns like Assisi, Spello, and Spoleto are jewels of the Italian genius, of history…

RAE: I love the balance that Italy has. You can be in a village or in a large city but you never feel lost.

ES: And that’s because cities were built around man, not cars. Also, cities were built with a sense of “finality” or a notion of “what the city is for”.

So you have anchors, like the Cathedral or the Church, the fortress, or the city wall, the Bishop’s palace, or the central square…

Unlike our grid system in America, which paves over nature and effaces it, the mediaeval town takes the resources it builds upon. It creates a new forest, in a way, made of arches, decoration, architecture… a city you WANT to walk in, live in… There’s an overt and explicit attention paid to the pleasure of the citizen to be where he is.

Umbria is stunning… you’re surrounded by green, and by one of the purest expressions of the Italian Mediaeval period.

In Perugia, too, we see layers of history very clearly.

In one door to the city, for example, you see the massive Etruscan stones at the lower level, the roman additions, and the subsequent the mediaeval additions above and around that.

RAE: Do you have an example of this?Porta Etrusca

ES: Porta Etrusca.

RAE: I love your passion for the history and design

ES: It’s because nobody is able to “copy” what has been done in the past. Anybody who says that makes a stretch. We don’t have the knowhow, or the culture, to support such enterprises. However, we can abide by many of the same principles by which the artists of the past composed their works.

This is not rehash, nor is it “nostalgia”. It’s what real artists in real life have always done; build on the work of those who came before them. Much like in the physical sciences, this resulted in progress, both in materials, technique, understanding, and of course, rendering of the craft itself.

A church or a sacred space isn’t like other spaces. The approach, if I have to put it simply, is this…In an organic and sacral culture, we model profane buildings from the sacred ones, imbuing them, as much as possible, with the noble qualities of sacred architecture.

In today’s consumer culture we pretend to create sacred space off the principles of profane and commercial architecture — which is why sacred places today don’t look or feel sacred. They feel like shopping centres and lounges.

Q.V. (Quod Vide): A “church” recently built at around 20 million dollars in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

RAE: Your follow-up with a specific story assists your point of view very well.

I know you are the owner of Heritage Liturgical, which can be found on Facebook or at Can you please tell us how Heritage Liturgicalyour work connects you to the churches in Italy and architecture?

ES: As it says on our website, “We combine traditional artistry with modern techniques to create spaces of aesthetic worth and spiritual meaning.” Our work consists of bringing the elements of composition and intention of our shared cultural heritage to play in modern applications.

RAE: It is nice to know there are people in this day and age still trying to share Christ with others.

Please share how you got interested in art and designing? Was it due to you growing up in Italy? Was it divine inspiration? Or was it just by accident?

ES: I had to find a way to make a living, as much as possible anyhow; doing something I actually cared about.

True Art brings man above his animal nature, and then transports his animal nature to become something greater, more divine, namely, human beings. Part of a real understanding of Art is to accept the very evident qualities which make Art fundamental and essential…Beauty, Truth, and Goodness.

Some today have said that, “a drawing is not an act of war”. Well, Art is an act of war. It always has been. Or at least, it’s safe to say that Art is an act of the most delightful violence we can imagine.

RAE: In Italy, then, there are lots of wars going on everywhere.

ES: Haha! What I mean is that true Art takes from chaos, and places into order.

It takes base materials, like a crushed rock, animal hair, a piece of stone and a piece of metal gnashing against each other, or a pen and some ink, or a horse hair on a cat gut string, and creates order… beauty. Art allows us, through these base things, to discover harmony, and to amplify it, magnify it, and delight in it.

Art is violence against the chaos. So Art is my warfare, in my small little atelier, trying to do the most beautiful thing we can. Hoping that a stitch or a brush stroke can change lives.

RAE: That is a great, and positive, way to go about life, changing lives with art.

In your “personal” opinion, what is your favorite art/sculpture/building in Umbria?

ES: You terrify me with that question! [Laughing]

RAE: If that’s too small, we can go the surrounding region. I am going to ask for your “professional” opinion next, mind you.

ES: Well, my personal favorite element of Umbria is the streets.Umbrian Streets They incorporate everything about the culture which makes the monumental edifices possible.

The small winding, geometrical streets of the historic centres of towns I mentioned, like Spello, Spoleto, Assisi, and, yes, even are emblematic of a life rooted in what is real, in what is good, and what is necessary: family, community/religion, nutrition. And that these things are pure.

So you walk through these streets and you smell the cooking, you meet the people who have inhabited these buildings literally for millennia. While these aren’t “masterpieces” of art, proper, they are what I enjoy the most because they are closest to what I am; alive, perceiving, walking, seeing.

And they make stumbling onto afontana-maggiore magnificent square all the more breathtaking.

RAE: That was magnificent.

ES: Hey, just spilling the beans! [More laughter]

RAE: I can feel what you described and it comes to life, even more after having been to Italy.

ES: The food is a living masterpiece, which I always INSIST must be a Foodpart of the Italian experience. If you’re not eating like an Italian while in Italy you’re actually missing the most important aspect of your visit! [Laughing]

If you’re in a group, leave your group and go where Italians are eating. Make the effort. It’s a matter of life and death! Hahaha!

RAE: Great piece of advice.

ES: Ignore my art critique if you will, but listen to my talk about food! Food after all is the first art we experience as children.

RAE: Wow. I never really thought of food as art for children, but it makes sense. I like it!

And what is your “professional” opinion of the art in Umbria? I said I was going to ask that before, so I must.

ES: Well, I suppose “professional opinion” means looking more specifically at monuments or single works of art. In this respect two things are impossible, namely deciding, and then not talking about something just as amazing in the next breath!

The Cappella di San Servo is another spot. It’s a small chapel, and I,Cappella di San Severo I’m not sure it’s always open.

RAE: Is it the chapel itself, like the architecture, or is it what the chapel holds inside?

ES: There’s the mural painted by [Pietro] Perugino and Raffaello.

It’s the style of one, and the other, evident in the mural… but all in continuity, in faithfulness to the objective which they shared. To create a thing of beauty surpassed their own instrumentality. I believe it’s important to underline such communion, especially today.

And of course in my next breath I would say the Sanctuary complex spoleto-s-cathedral-interiorat Assisi, and the Murals by Lippi at the Cathedral of Spoleto.

Although when I saw this in Spello, I was breathless.

RAE: Some of the most precious of art has come from religion.

ES: Well, just if you consider Perugino and Raffaello that alone is immense!

RAE: Please share more about the local customs and feel for life, from one Italian speaking about others.

ES: It’s impossible to “explain” what it’s like to live Italian daily customs. Depending on where you’re from they’re different, of course… but in certain things there’s this expectation for perfection or excellence that I’ve only seen in certain Japanese settings, and that’s in the kitchen.

Then in others, there’s an attitude of acceptance which borders on a sort of hopeful apathy…”If someone comes and fixes this, great, but it’s probably never going to happen.”

And overall, a shared understanding of the marvel that the modern Italian finds himself living in: a land of beauty which he did not build, which he cannot build because he doesn’t have the moral and cultural resources to do so, but which he understands he must preserve.

In the latter, there is a sort of tragedy, of course. So I’ll stick with the hallowed traditions of espresso and a quick glass of water at the bar, and espresso ONLY in the morning and NEVER in the afternoon.

Understanding WHY it’s “wrong” to have cappuccino in the afternoon, and why different cuts of pasta actually matter, to the point of possibly ruining a meal! It isn’t something you can communicate in words. It has to be lived, and that’s it!

RAE: Fair enough. Italy is something one needs to experience and not just read about.

I think you will inspire some people to do that

ES: I can only hope so, with your help! They will thank both of us for it!

RAE: If there is one thing that you did while in Umbria that you would tell someone they absolutely MUST see or do, what would it be?

ES: Italy, properly experienced, with a very open heart, is something which will always call you back. And even while you’re not there, you can always pine, remember, and rest in the memories of what will surely have been one of the most beautiful experiences of your lifetime.

Ah! I would say EAT. I highly recommend renting a car, and stopping in the towns on the road, and when you see beautiful steeples etc., stop in. It’s how I discovered Spello, by accident.

RAE: Is there a favorite meal or wine that is special to you?

ES: In Umbria there IS, in fact, a special wine… (Pause while thinking of the name).

The whites from Orvieto, another jewel which I didn’t mention,orvieto white because it’s very well known, maybe I should have, are a true representation of Montefalco Redsome of the excellences of the terroir. The reds known as Montefalco are also superb.

It’s all very personal, but these will surely make for a good show/introduction! Always stay as local to where you are at, I think, is the main point. All of Italy has good wine.

And you will likely never find here [in the states], what you can get there, on the ground. So stick with smaller labels of regional and local specialties and vines, for a really special experience. [Smiles]

RAE: With that I will humbly say thank you.

ES: Thank you Shawn!

Good luck with the editing! [Laughter] Sorry! It was somewhat stream of consciousness. [More laughter]

RAE: You have taught me quite a bit and I know our readers will be enchanted.

ES: Looking forward to it!

RAE: I’ll let you know when we put out the article. I’m going to come back to you about Calabria later. You know that, right?

ES: [Laughing] Ok! It’s harder the closer you are to a place, strangely.

RAE: I get it. Maybe by the next interview you will have another adventure to share. Take care, my friend.

ES: I’ll be glad to talk about it. It’s such a beautiful place! Thank you for the opportunity.

That concludes our journey into Central Italy, specifically Umbria. On behalf of Rome Across Europe, I would like to again thank Mr. Enzo Selvaggi. This edition of Where To? Wednesday had quite a bit of information shared along with a new perspective as well. Thank you to our Rome Across Europe-rs for all of your support. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History: Umbria is named for its first known inhabitants, the Umbri tribe around 1,000 BC. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri, and they invaded Umbria from about 700 to 500 BC. To gain a stronger foothold in the region, the Roman fortress of Narni was built in 298 BC. Romans defeated the Samnites and their Gallic allies Battle of Sentinumin the Battle of Sentinum (295 BC).

The Roman victory at Sentinum started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established some colonies and built the Via Flaminia (220 BC) which became a principal vector for Roman development in Umbria.

During the Roman Civil War between Mark Antony and Octavian (40 BC), the city of Perugia supported Antony and was almost completely destroyed by Octavian. Roman Umbria extended augustusgaiusoctaviusthrough most of what is now the northern Marche, to Ravenna, but excluded the west bank of the Tiber.

In the 14th century, the signorie arose, but were subsumed into the Papal States, and the Papacy ruled the region until the end of the 18th century. After the French Revolution and the French Conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the ephemeral Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire (1809–1814) under the name of department of Trasimène. After Napoleon‘s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

In 1861, Umbria was incorporated in the Kingdom of Italy. Today, there is ample archaeological evidence of both Etruscan and Roman society scattered throughout Umbria or on display in museums (National Archaeological Museum of Umbria or the Archaeological Museum of Folgolino).

A Year in Orléans, France

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe. We have started a new year by doing new things, creating new experiences. This edition of Where To? Wednesday is special. It is about seeing the world, and seeing it early. Enough so that it makes a lasting impact on one’s life.

Our guest this week is a man I have known for many years, backChris Hagan when I lived in Southern California. He was very close with my family. I probably saw him more than some of my cousins. Due to the amount of traveling he does, both personally and professionally, he was an obvious pick. RAE Nation, please welcome Mr. Chris Hagan.

Rome Across Europe: Hey buddy. It has been a while.

Chris Hagan: It sure has. How’s Texas?

RAE: Life is a joy. I guess life for me here in Texas would be comparable to how much you enjoy living in Hawaii.

CH: Life is good then.

RAE: Absolutely! So Mr. Hagan, where are you taking us today?

CH: Well. It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere in Europe. I was in London a year ago.

RAE: This is about you and the most impactful experience you had ANYWHERE in Europe. If it was London, perfect. If it was somewhere else, then that is fine to. This is your show.

CH: I’ve been all over and the world really is your oyster. You want to talk about my year studying abroad in France when I was 18?

RAE: Wait. You studied abroad at 18? How come this never came up before?

CH: Not really sure.

RAE: No problem but this now our topic of discussion. Please tell us how this all started.

CH: Well, I graduated high school early. At 17. I turned 18 in July, then got on a plane for France in August.

RAE: That is quite the whirlwind of activity. How did you choose to study abroad?

CH: It started back when I was in 7th grade. My family hosted kid from Portugal. I never really thought about studying abroad till the day my parents asked if I would like to do it.

RAE: How did you decide on France then?

CH: At the time I didn’t even think about going to France. Just like now, I was really into surfing and wanted to go to Tahiti. My Mom knew I wanted to go to Tahiti just so I could surf. She wasn’t having any of that though.

RAE: Boy, do I understand that. At least they speak French in Tahiti, right?

CH: Yes they do. I got in contact with American Field Service (AFS-USA) and applied. They give you a list where you put your 3 countries of choice. I listed France, Spain and some other country I can’t remember.

RAE: I guess it does not really matter since you got France, right?

CH: AFS doesn’t guarantee you’ll get ANY of your 3 choice countries. I just got lucky and got my 1st choice.

RAE: Did you speak any French prior to moving there?

CH: Nope. I had to learn French on the fly. When I touched down I knew 2 phrases. The 1st was “Je ne sais pas.” [I don’t know.]. The 2nd was “Je suis un Américain.” [I’m an American.].

RAE: That is definitely going into print. That is really not a whole bunch to know. Did that help any?

CH: Thanks. Almost immediately I then learned “Je ne parle pas français.” [I don’t speak French.].

RAE: I think I would have had “I don’t speak French.” topping my list. Was it hard then to communicate with others?

CH: Not so much. The locals and I just found other ways to communicate. Being an American, and from Southern California, both opened doors and added to my mystique.

RAE: Where were you? Where did you call home while you were in France?

CH: I was in Orléans. Lycée Pothier was the high school I attended. I took mini trips throughout the year and at the end of the school year I went to the Southern Coast. This was truly an amazing experience that broadened my mind.

RAE: I am enthralled by an experience like this since I wanted to do Orléanssomething like this in college. We shall come back later to these jaunts from “Home Base”. Please share more about Orléans.

CH: Orléans is known for a city that was under siege by the British during the Hundred Year’s War. Joan of Arc helped liberate the city. Orléans helped pay a portion of herJoan of Arc - Orleans ransom, and has a statue erected of her.

RAE: Yes. She is known as “La Pucelle d’Orléans.” [The Maid of Orleans.]. Joan of Arc is also a Roman Catholic Saint.

Please share with us about your Host Family.

CH: My French Family consisted of a Dad, Mom, older Brother, and older Sister. The order of who spoke English from best to worst went Sister, Mom, Brother, and Dad. Amy was my French Sister. The year prior to my arrival she had studied abroad in Central California. Amy said she had a bad experience, but this didn’t stop her parents from hosting a student from California.

RAE: Wow. That was very considerate of both Amy and her family, especially to host a person specifically from California. How was the family?

CH: They were awesome! Since my French was super limited, we’d have “lessons” everyday. It was like we’d sit around having conversations in French, with broken English to help me learn the language. After a while it started getting lots easier.

RAE: Aside from your Host Family, were there any other people that you would talk to on a regular basis?

CH: Actually, yes. There was a French girl in my class that spoke English that I’d talk with. Her Dad taught English, so she was really very good. Probably the best person I’d communicate with.

RAE: I am sure you both were close at least due to sharing a common language. Were you in contact with your own family back in the states very often?

CH: There was no true internet access like there is now when I went to France. It was not even close as if a kid went today. I felt different, but American kids going today would be really sheltered. For me, this was a complete life changing/altering experience. It was truly character building.

RAE: So when you did want to contact your family or friends how did you do it?

CH: During the year I talked to my family about 3 or 4 times on the phone. Everything else was by letters. I wrote buckets full of letters Stars Stripes Libertyback to the states. Looking back it was a real kick in the pants. I decorated all the envelopes with Pro-American items since I was there during the 1st Gulf War. I’d put flags, stars and stripes, anything that other people would recognize as “American”. After a while my parents actually asked me to “tone it down” a bit on the decorations, but that’s how I felt. I felt so proud of America that I wanted to share it with others.

RAE: Was that hard for you, being like the only American there during a time of international conflict?

CH: It wasn’t so bad. There were a lot of Arabs where I was during the 1st Gulf War. Most of them just wanted to talk to me and ask me questions, like “Why is America attacking Saudi Arabia? Is it just for the oil?” My typical reply to this was “No. If Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia wouldn’t have bombed Kuwait none of this would be happening.” My goal was to defend the USA. So much so that I even considered joining the armed forces upon my return to America.

RAE: The support of America and its yearning for all people to be free is appreciated.

So how was daily life for you in Orléans?

CH: Well, my Host Family had a cellar for wine. Each night we had aWine Cellar bottle of Red Wine & a bottle of White Wine with the evening meal. No matter what.

RAE: That sounds very European. Did you enjoy the wine?

CH: That’s funny because I didn’t even drink. I didn’t like wine so I never had that.

RAE: That is funny indeed. Did anything else stand out for you?

CH: Actually, yes. I played American Football on a French team. While I was there American Football was sort of just being introduced. It was like being a celebrity. Since it was so new, and the French didn’t know anything about American Football other than what they saw on TV. It was as if only the “Crazies” played. My teammates were some of the most eccentric people I’ve ever meet. But they were also some of the coolest, most welcoming people ever.

RAE: Were you playing for your high school?

CH: No. Actually there are NO high school sports in France, just club sports. School there is just school, learning and nothing else. Sports, and any other social aspect, are done on your own time. There school is simply a learning experience. It’s really different than here in the states.

RAE: How was it playing football?

CH: We practiced 3 nights a week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) and Orléans Chevaliershad games on the weekend. We’d practice from 8-11 PM. After practice we’d shower and then head off to dinner. Dinner was just around midnight. After we finished we’d head to the clubs, which we’d end up leaving about 2 AM when the closed down. Since I didn’t drink alcohol it was just about the experience. Being with friends and meeting people. It was rad. Sometimes I’d come home, change clothes, and then head back off to school.

RAE: Dang. I guess with no drinking there would not be any hangovers.

CH: Exactly.

RAE: Was it simply because you were “The American”, or even “The American Football Player”, that you had a popular night life?

CH: That could be it. My older Host Brother was actual a DJ and local Modeling Agent. Basically due to the combination of everything I’d walk to the door and get right in. It would be equated to being a very, very attractive woman in Hollywood right now. You just know the right people and get right in. No cover. No waiting.

RAE: With this study abroad experience, plus the rest of your life travels and incidents, I should get the rights to your biography. Maybe do a screen play or something?

CH: That sounds good. We’ll do that. Jump on it now though so Denzel can play me.Untitled Screenplay

RAE: (Laughter) I’ll do my best to hone my writing skills.

Since school was just about school, did you do anything else with other people your age? Or were most experiences on your own or with your Host Family?

CH: I made trips to Paris, Southern France and the coast when it was nice, and to the Alps for snowboarding. There were also gatherings with exchange students from other countries. We all got together to share our own cultures as a big group. It was like traveling all over without ever leaving Orléans. There is nothing like a trip where you are fully immersed in a culture like I was. I give props to kids now for traveling more on their own like I did. It’s a very unique, and special, experience.

RAE: Did you ever have any problems, like being seen as an “Ugly American”?

CH: I actually never had any problems. It may have been because I was the only American there. It was one American amongst lots of French people. Usually that stigma is given to tourists when there are just tons of American tourists bombarding a single, or at least just a few, locals. On a trip I think people need to be fully immersed in the local culture. That’s how you make a life altering experience.

RAE: I agree. Getting off the beaten path is always a great way to feel “Local”.

CH: When traveling anywhere you should “Be Local”. Go where the local people go. Eat where the local people eat. Just be weary of the local water.

RAE: Good call on the water. That can ruin a trip pretty fast. Tell us more about Orléans and your travels in France.

CH: I loved France. The food. The atmosphere. The lifestyle. It was Avenue of the Republic, Orleanshow life should be. There wasn’t a bunch of stress at all. They live life opposite of California, and especially Los Angles/Hollywood. The French are concerned about what’s happening locally. They care about those in their lives, and then it spreads from there. Here it seems Americans care more about celebrities than their own neighbors. It’s sad actually.

RAE: I actually agree. Focusing and taking care of your own life, family and friends first would help solve a lot of issues. That’s a talk for another time though.

So what happened when you got home to America and Orange County?

CH: The night I got home there was actually a party going on across the street from my family’s house. It wasn’t for me or anything, but after I got settled I headed on over. Everyone there was excited to see me. They all asked general questions and were genuinely happy I was home, but there was something lacking. As I attempted to share with them I noticed their lack of interest set in. Looking at it now it’s easy to see. Those kids my age didn’t want to talk about France, or my experiences, because they had no idea about what I was sharing. It was out of their realm. They didn’t feel smart, so they wanted to talk about something different. I get that nobody wants to feel dumb, but it starts with each individual to stop that. Each of us needs to expand ourselves. Learn something new.Leaving-Your-Comfort-Zone

RAE: So you think we should get “out of our bubbles” and “out of our comfort zones”?

CH: Exactly! Live life. When I went on this trip I didn’t know any French. After living in France and experiencing life, I started learning and speaking French. By the end of the year, heck, I was even dreaming in French.

RAE: That is super impressive. The screenplay seems to be writing itself.

CH: Awesome. Here’s an example of how important it was to get out of my comfort zone. For both work and pleasure, I’ve been to Bali easily more than a year. More time than I spent in France. You’d think I’d know how to speak Indonesian, but I don’t. The time there was spent doing what I wanted. It was just me living my life in a different place. I’d surf and do things that were comfortable or where people spoke English. I never got myself immersed into the culture and the local situation. So nothing about the culture in Indonesia ever really set in like it did when I was in France.

RAE: Wow. That was a wonderful share. I need to try something like that. Get out of my bubble.

Do you have any parting words for us?

CH: While traveling anywhere, walk. I’ve traveled to Paris quite a bit. Both when I studied abroad and afterwards. Each time I never France Jeanne D Arc Fleur - Orleanstook the subway. By walking I was able to see life happen. I’d walk for miles and miles. I guess I’d also make sure you have great shoes for walking. You don’t really need a map either. Since you’re walking you can follow the locals to where they go. This gets you to get a better experience, while avoiding the “Ugly American” tourist appearance. Throw your plans out the window, and do what you feel. Plans seem to end up making more problems.

RAE: As a guy that likes things organized, can you please explain how not planning is better?

CH: Plans are typically made before even going on the trip. Making plans before even setting foot in your destination sets you up for failure. You don’t know if, or when, jet lag will set in. If you had plansMagic-happens to do something immediately after check-in, then that just failed. It’s nice to have an idea of what you want to do or see, but don’t make it the only thing you do on your trip. Do what you feel is right. Do what you feel is something you wouldn’t normally do. Keep it legal, of course. But, I mean, you can save yourself a lot of money if you’re just going to do similar things that you’d do at home. Just stay there then.

RAE: Oh, I see what you mean. We are on the same page now.

CH: Perfect.

RAE: Chris it has been a pleasure to talk to you, my friend. You have provided a new perspective and new style of interview for Where To? Wednesday. That is exactly what we want, a new feel for 2015.

CH: Hey man, glad I could help.

RAE: We would love to have you back in the future to share some more of your European experiences. Plus I think I need some more for the screenplay.

CH: [Laughs] Ok buddy. Will do. Good to talk with you again. We’ll talk again soon. Cheers!

RAE: Take care, buddy. This was special.

Today was a good time interviewing a good friend from earlier days. We did not so much discuss tourist spots in Orléans, or even France, but how to get the most out of any experience. After today, hopefully we all get more from our traveling.

And with that we will say goodbye, or au revoir, to Mr. Chris Hagan. Thank you again for both your time and the wonderful interview. Thank you for your time and till next week, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History: Before it was Orléans, it was a Gallic stronghold known as Caesar fighting in CenabumCenabum. That all changed with Julius Caesar. In the vision of Caesar, it was imperative to secure control of Cenabum as a strategic location on his way to conquering all of Gaul. In 52 BC Caesar, leading the Roman Empire, took over the area. Lucius Domitius Aurelianus Augustus as emperor rebuilt the city for himself. The city’s name became Aurelianum, or Aureliana Civitas, meaning “City of Aurelian”. This would then evolve into Orléans.