The culture of Rome is so interesting, unique and completely different from ours.
Arcadia (the host program) organized a few optional events for our group if we want to participate. I have gone to a few, one was the bike tour I already wrote about. I also took a cooking class, went to a wine tasting, as well as attended the ballet. These events were planned for fun as well as so we can learn some things about the culture of Rome. [These happened quite a while ago I just never found the time to write about them].
Cooking class was great we learned a few quick, easy, inexpensive but authentic Italian recipes. Made Saltimbocca alla Romana which is veal, prosciutto and sage coated in flour and sautéed in oil, garlic and wine. Saltimbocca means “jumps in the mouth” because its bite-size portions that you just pop in your mouth, they were deliciously savory. Next we cooked zucchini with mint leaves which gave such a fresh flavor. After we made Pasta alla Puttanesca which has a tomato based sauce, olives, capers, garlic and sometimes anchovies (which we did not add in). The woman teaching the class told us that pasta alla puttanesca actually means “whore’s style pasta” and was given this name because it’s quick and easy–now you’ll never think of it the same! Finally we had dessert, Tiramisu, which we actually made first so it could be refrigerated and ready by the end of the meal! It was so quick to make, we dipped ladyfingers in coffee and layered them in the bottom of the dish. Then you add the mascarpone cream mixture and put cocoa on top. Then you refrigerate it for a bit and it’s ready! I had no idea how easy it was to make and so delicious. Cooking class got me excited to start cooking in the apartment more. Natalie and I have been making dinner together we’ve gotten pretty handy some of our best dinners were stuffed peppers with balsamic chicken and veggies, chicken parmesan, some stir fry and some amazingly fresh salads!
Another really fun thing that we’ve done is Aperativo! Aperativo is like happy hour in America but better. Its a buffet of appetizers of pizza, pasta, veggies whatever, and dessert including a drink anywhere from 8-12 euro. It fantastic, it’s a part of their drinking culture, Italians don’t drink to get drunk they drink as a social activity and always with food (which is better for you). Its fun to just casually go to a place and have a drink and talk with friends it really is no big deal.
We also went to a wine tasting which was really cool, I enjoy drinking wine but don’t know much about it. It was really funny because the woman teaching us about wine was actually from New Jersey but has been living in Rome for the past 20 years. It was over a month ago so I don’t remember exactly what we learned but, we tried four wines all from the Lazio region of Rome which is where we are. We started with a prosecco, which is a specific type of bubbly wine, it’s not champagne which are only made with champagne grapes, and it’s also different from just a generic white wine with carbonation. Then we had a white wine, a rosé, and a red wine. They were all paired with different snacks to bring out the most in the flavor of the wine.
Another activity organized by Arcadia was going to the ballet in the Teatro dell’Opera to see Coppélia. We were up in the balcony seating which made us feel very important. The dancing was beautiful and the it was fun to see the story develop, and there is no language barrier in dance, it’s all about the music and the dancing it was so much fun to watch.
There are some other interesting cultural things that I have learned about Rome after being here for 7 weeks (seriously can’t believe it’s been that long)! There is no tipping here, for anything in cabs, at restaurants, everything is included. At restaurants sometime there is a ‘coperto’ which is basically a table fee, but I haven’t seen much of that here, its more-so in the tourist areas I think. Next is water there are two things about water here: water is not free, when you go to a restaurant and ask for water they bring you a bottle of natural or sparking water whichever you prefer. Occasionally you can get a ‘bicchiere di acqua’ which is a glass of water but a lot of the time they will say no. It seems funny that water always costs money because of the aqueduct system that was put in during ancient times that are still working. It bring water to the city and there are fountains everywhere and you can drink straight from them they are completely clean. I still don’t understand why I have to pay 2 euro for a bottle in the restaurant when theres a fountain flowing right outside! I’m enjoying learning the differences nuances of Italian culture, I’m sure there will be more to come!