A year later…

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since my Roman adventure.  Some days it feels like a million years ago.  Other days it feels like it could have happened yesterday.

If you’ve come across this blog because you’re looking at going to Rome, I couldn’t encourage you more.  Rome has the potential to transform you, and I think few experiences in life are more worth the cost or inconvenience.  Browse this site – both the links and the tags such as “tour” or “eating” – to help you plan your trip.

And I’m always available if you have questions or are looking for advice.  Ten days or ten months — both can be equally daunting and your trip will benefit from a little preparation — research into places to see, yes, but even just some mental/psychological preparation! : )

I went through a phase where I was seriously considering moving to Rome and becoming a tour guide.  I know now that isn’t what I’m destined to do in life, but I still flirt with the idea of being a personal tour guide to an intimate group of pilgrims…  so just drop me a comment if you are interested. ; )

I hope you enjoy the blog.  Even though it’s been a year, I still don’t think I’ve completely processed everything those months gave me.  I miss the place terribly, and I didn’t really tell Rome “arrividerci” — just “a presto!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Well, I suppose this is my last post.  It’s hard to believe it’s over.  As I’m sitting here at home at my parents’ computer, it really seems like the last five months was a dream.

But thank goodness it wasn’t.  The experiences I’ve had will be with me forever… the graces I’ve been given will impact my life.  I’ve been given much- I know that.  And I suppose that means much will be expected of me… that’s the scary part.

Thank you all for being a part of this grand adventure. I’ll admit it — Part of my sadness in returning to the States comes from having to end this blog.  It’s been such a blessing to be able to share my experiences with all of you– with my family, friends, and all of you out there that I’ve never even met.

I know about sixty people read my blog daily.  I’m humbled that so many of you would take the time to read about my experiences.  Thanks for sticking with it.

I ask for your prayers as I continue on in life– because really, our whole life is an adventure, right?  We may not see horses on tram tracks or have our bus randomly break down in the middle of the street or go to Mass with the Holy Father or see famous people in airports, but our lives are full of great blessings and challenges that shape who we are.

I will be starting a job this August at Aquinas College in Nashville, TN.  Please continue to pray for me.  And if anyone is ever heading to Rome and needs any information, advice, or maps of the best gelaterie, you can always find me at joan1214@gmail.com.

Thanks again!  Ciao!


Filed under Uncategorized

Need I say more?

San Pietro

I sure will miss you, dear Rome.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

some of the last adventures

I’ve asked for the grace of acceptance, and so I guess I shouldn’t wonder why I feel strangely okay with leaving this place. It was hard to leave St. Peter’s, but other than that, I feel ready for the next step.

This morning I went to Mass here at the monastery, then went into the city with Abuna Roberto, who had to get his paperwork to return to Rome in August. I was headed to St. Peter’s to spend my last morning in one of my favorite places in the world.

The weather has been gorgeous the past few days, and this morning was no different. The Pope’s windows were open again!

windows open!

I first went to John Paul II’s tomb and prayed, then headed up to the Basilica and prayed in the Blessed Sacrament chapel for awhile. Then I wandered around the gorgeous place one last time before walking out into the piazza.

That’s when I got the hunch that something was up. Instead of exiting off to the right down by the arch of the bells (where I had been about an hour before, coming up from the crypt), that was all blocked off and we were all walking down the front steps– very unusual.


a beautiful day

The whole south side of the piazza was completely blocked off with cops and suited guards standing around.

south side of piazza blocked off

When I got far enough into the piazza to look back at the arch of the bells, I saw dark cars… and got pretty excited. The Pope must be leaving the Vatican! I noticed the Swiss Guards stationed at the arch of the bells were in full dress, helmet and plume and all.

dark cars and Swiss Guards in full dress

full dress

I had really hoped to see the Holy Father again, and I got so excited. I positioned myself at a barricade and prepared to wait it out.

And wait I did. The drivers of the dark cars were standing around, so I knew when they got in their cars, that would be my signal. Some people came and went, but no one waited like I did. It was around 11 when I began to wait. I wish I could have dictated this blog entry while I waited, because there were so many funny thoughts running through my head. Like when these police men kept driving around in this little tiny area in their police golf cart:

Polizia driving in circles

It’s not just any golf cart, though… It’s a Lamborghini!!

the Lamberghini golf cart

I took so many pictures of everything, because I knew I was in the middle of a great adventure fit for my blog. I waited and waited… then I noticed the Holy Father’s windows had just closed. Maybe that was sign he was coming?

windows closed

One of the funny parts about standing there waiting was listening to how many people came and asked a few of the suited guards how to get to the other side of the colonnade since it was all blocked off. The majority of them were Italians, so it’s not like they didn’t know how to walk around… they just didn’t want to. My friend Joseph said that he’s noticed a lot of Italians blow every bit of suffering out of proportion– and I certainly noticed that today! You would have thought the guard had told them to walk all around the Vatican Walls. Every single person asked him in Italian, “Can’t you just let me through?” Or “Can I just go through here?” and when he said no, they threw this little fit or sighed really loudly. It was quite comical.

At 12, drivers got in cars. But then nothing happened. At 12:30, I looked up and saw motorcycles had joined the group. Soon, the cars turned on their blue flashing lights. We were in business!

motocicletta... we must be getting close

The workers had stopped wandering around and were waiting off to the side. The first car pulled away, presumably to stop traffic up ahead. Cars appeared from inside the Vatican, and I eagerly awaited my last glimpse of the Holy Father!

Watch here.

Did you see the flags on the car? Yes, the Italian flag and the EU flag. GR! As soon as I saw that, I got pretty depressed. I had waited and waited and waited… for a glimpse of the new Italian President, Silvio Berlusconi.


They drove by, and that was it. The guys started cleaning up. All that set up for that!?! I thought that dignitaries just came and went by the normal road, the Sant’Anna gate entrance. If there were barricades through the piazza, I figured it would be for the Holy Father! Haha, sorry for the long story with the disappointing ending, but I wanted you experience a quarter of what I felt when that car drove by. So multiply the time it took you to read that story by about twenty, and you’ll be close…

Oh well. It makes a good story, I suppose, although not as good as it would be if I would have seen the Holy Father one last time. I wasn’t TOO upset about having waited all that time, because my plan for the morning was to sit in St Peter’s Square anyway. [as a side note, the dark van that followed Berlusconi appeared to be my parents, which made me laugh. I’m pretty sure it was a dark blue Pontiac Montana, which is completely random!]

It was hard to leave the Square for the last time. I lingered awhile, then took my time walking down Via Conciliazione, savoring my favorite view.

Via Conciliazione

I’m guessing the news guy was talking about Berlusconi’s visit.

Then I wandered down the Bridge of the Angels and stopped at the Frigidarium for some gelato– cioccolato, nocciola and cannella, for those keeping score.

Mmmm... nocciola, cannella, cioccolato from Frigidarium

After lunch at one of my favorite pizza places and prayers in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, I headed back here.

A strange day, but a good one. We’re going out tonight to a jazz bar near Piazza Navona, and then it’ll be time to say goodbye. *sigh*

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Another great day

Yesterday was a great day. It started in the Vatican, where I ordered some papal blessings. It’s always fun to go behind the walls on what feels like official business. I like when I approach the Swiss Guards and they salute me before asking me where I’d like to go. The only annoying thing is that lately the police that stand by the second gate into Vatican City (the gate you don’t have to go through if you’re going to some place like l’Osservatore Romano or the papal blessing place) yell “Signora!” and ask you again where you’re going. As if they didn’t just see the Swiss Guard letting me through!? I decided perhaps they think we pretty girls just wink at the Swiss Guards and don’t have to report our business to them? I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s annoying.

So I went there, and then bought a few last minute souvenirs, then headed to the Papal Audience to see Pope Benedict one last time.

Papal Audience 6.4.08

I’m trying not to think about the fact that I won’t see him again before I leave. *sigh*

I didn’t bother to get a ticket for the Audience, so I just stood. Right behind this chef. (I thought it was pretty funny)

an Italian chef coming for his blessing

And right near this guy. I don’t have a picture of a Swiss Guard, and no Rome photo collection is complete without one.

a Swiss Guard

After the Audience, a group of us girls grabbed lunch at our favorite cornetteria (aka pastry shop!) — don’t worry, we didn’t get pastries, we got panini.

our favorite cornetteria

Then we had a Scavi tour! The Scavi tour is one of the best things you can do in Rome. It’s a tour of the excavations under St. Peters, and, if I may ruin the ending… you end up in a little room under the main altar of the Basilica, looking at the fiberglass box that holds the bones of St. Peter! They were discovered under the papacy of Pius XII, and the whole story can be found in the book “The Bones of St. Peter” by John Walsh. An excellent read!!

After the Scavi tour, I embarked on my gelati tour. Then the day finished up with Mass at the English College and dinner with our favorite English seminarians, James and Mark, who will be ordained deacons very, very soon!!! : )

Today was a good day too. Our friend Father Jason had Mass for us in St Peters, on one of the side altars, right over the tomb of St Josaphat. Then we had a nice leisurely breakfast at the favorite bar of Cardinal Ratzinger, just a few doors down from his old apartment.

This afternoon, Carolina and I went to the Galleria Borghese, a fantastic art gallery full of Bernini sculptures and Caravaggios and other wonderful jewels. I think we could have stood in front of Bernini’s David for hours and still discovered something new. Amazing. There’s a Correggio exhibit there over the summer, so I got to see one of my favorite pictures of the Nativity that graces our hallway at home:


It’s so amazing to see paintings in real life that you’ve only seen replicas of!

A few great days, all around!  Now I’m packing…  Is there a patron saint of packing?  (My mom is thinking, ‘You should know by now.’) If there is, could you whisper a little prayer?  I may have to stay here in Rome and let my extra luggage take my seat.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


You’re about to profit from years of experience and intense study…

Old Bridge

Well, at first I thought that my readers didn’t deserve this post because no one (but my dear Mom) answered my request for comments about favorite fountains. But on second thought, this post might be more torture than a reward… bwah ha ha! : )

I must say, this post fun had the most fun prep work than any other post this semester…

So what is the best gelateria in Rome? I really think I probably don’t know the best one… since they’re all over Rome, the best one is probably tucked down some alley. They’re like churches– you couldn’t go to every gelaterie in Rome if you went to multiple ones every day for a year!

Everyone has their own opinion on “the best place.” It really depends on what you’re looking for in a gelateria. What is the best gelato?

In my humble opinion, good gelati has two components: Texture + Flavor.

In this post, I will cover some of the popular gelaterie and some of the not-so-famous. But first, let’s talk about the stuff in general.

One of my general rules is that I don’t eat gelati in cones. Part of me just doesn’t like the way the cone tastes, especially since the gelati generally sits on top of the cone, not inside of it, so by the time you finish your gelato, you just have an empty cone by itself. The another reason I don’t eat cones is that I’m a slob and usually manage to drip it all over myself. Cups are easier for me to manage. Some gelaterie don’t have cones at all– San Crispino claims they interfere with the pureness of their gelati; Fior di Luna says they don’t use cones because it’s harder to control the quality of the raw ingredients (I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds nice).

The biggest reason I don’t like cones is because when you lick your gelato, it all mixes together and tastes the same. So you just have a big glob of chocolate/pistachio/hazelnut/straciatella instead of individual flavors. (You can eat your cone with a spoon, of course, to prevent this from happening.)

The other general rule I have about gelati is that I don’t want my gelati to taste like ice cream. Because it’s not ice cream. If you have gelati that tastes like ice cream… well, there’s nothing wrong with it objectively (I like ice cream), but for pete’s sake, you can have gelato. So eat gelato.

What’s the difference? Well, gelato is a lot creamier and denser, I’d say. Gelato actually has less fat (WOO HOO!) because it has less cream and more milk. It also has NO AIR, which accounts for the density. The tricky thing about gelato is that it has a low “overrun,” to use a technical ice-cream word, which basically means that it is served at a lower temperature (because of its density) and thus melts a lot faster (hence the cup over the cone!)

But that’s all nice and good technical stuff.. what does it mean for my tastebuds?It’s sort of hard to describe in written words how they’re different. You know how when you lick an McDonald’s soft serve cone (the cheapest ice cream out there– I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s objectively the cheapest ice cream because it’s all air!) you don’t have to do anything? It just sort of disappears in your mouth? Well, gelato isn’t like that. I don’t want to say you have to chew it, because that sounds weird. And I don’t want to say it sits in your mouth like pudding, because that’s not right either. It just has this dense wonderfulness. And chocolate gelato is SOOO chocolately…. it’s so dark, unlike our light brown chocolate ice cream. I don’t prefer chocolate ice cream at all, but chocolate gelato? Mmm, mmm!

Another Joannie-rule-of-thumb is that I usually don’t take whipped cream. Not all places offer it (San Crispino definitely doesn’t– if they don’t serve cones because of purity issues, they’re definitely not slapping some cream on top!!) I just don’t like it because it dilutes the taste of the gelato. Plus, you waste your tastebuds and your appetite on it.

One tip: Turn the spoon upside down when you eat, so you taste the gelati and not the back of the spoon.

My usual flavors are cioccolato (chocolate), nocciola (hazelnut), and pistachio. It’s kind of funny, because I’m not a nut person. But nocciola and pistachio are usually very, very good. And they’re so typical Italian, which I also like. When I’m going somewhere for the first time, I either get a combination of these OR a flavor that they’re known for (if I know that ahead of time). Continually getting chocolate, hazelnut, and pistachio allows me to compare place to place.

My other rule is that I try to avoid chains… namely, Blue Ice. I used to live near a Blue Ice and thought it was fine. Their quality isn’t the best, but it’s still gelato… But now, Blue Ice is everywhere. It’s like Starbucks in New York City. There’s one on Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, right across from the Basilica, even! There’s one down the street from St Peters. There are TWO within a block of each other on the same street near Campo di Fiori. When I saw that, I knew something needed to be done. And I decided then and there that I wouldn’t go to Blue Ice. Again, it’s not horrible… but there are so many places that are so much better. Blue Ice doesn’t deserve to be so prevalent!

Blue Ice woos you in with displays like this:

Blue Ice

But my friend Trena told me that you actually don’t want your gelato piled up high– it shows that it has too many artificial ingredients to be able to do that. And I think she has something with that… because other places, the gelati looks a lot less impressive:

Alberto Pica

But it’s so darn good!

Notice the use of the spatula-thing, rather than a scoop. And in my pictures, you’ll notice that the spoons are small. Serving sizes are much smaller than our ice cream in the States (unless we’re at Old Bridge!), which is good– the gelati is so rich, all you need is a little bit! And the little spoon is perfect for savoring the experience.

Okay, enough talking. Let’s go to a few different places.

Old Bridge
Piazza Risorgamento

Old Bridge

We’ll start near the Vatican. This is a great place to stop while you’re in the area– partly because everything around St Peter’s is so overpriced and touristy, and Old Bridge is a good cheap snack. Quality? Not the best. Their pistachio is some of the best in Rome, flavor-wise. But is their gelato the best in Rome? No.

Quantity is where Old Bridge has it won. ESPECIALLY if you get a cone. These guys pile the stuff on– I’ve known several people to not even be able to finish a 2 euro cone.

If you’re in the St Peter’s area, go here. (Please, please, please go here instead of Blue Ice on Via Ottaviano)

della Palma
just down the street from the Pantheon

This place is pretty talked-about by tourists. If you’re discussing gelaterie, this one always comes up. It’s not high on my list. Like Old Bridge, it’s not discussed for it’s quality. In della Palma’s case, it’s in the conversation because of the number of flavors offered. There are probably about 100, no exaggeration. In my opinion, the quality suffers heavily for this. They have elaborate displays of gelati mounds, with different items perched on top (like a Kinder Bueno bar on the Kinder Bueno gelato), but the stuff just doesn’t live up to the show. It’s always crowded with tourists, too. In my opinion, bop in to see the impressive display, then head on to another location. Like….

Via Ufficio del Vicario, 40


This place has a nice “ice cream parlor” atmosphere, and you can sit down for free. It’s usually pretty hopping with tourists, and their prices are on the high side. I’m usually okay with paying more if I feel like the quality is reciprocal, but I think this is a tad overpriced. There are lots of flavors — not as many as della Palma– but you’ll find much better quality here. I’m not sold that it’s the best ever. My last visit, I had chocolate and cannella (cinnamon), and I found both rather grainy. I can see cinnamon being grainy, but chocolate? I would go back, but again, it’s not my all-time favorite. One journalist said that Pope John Paul II was a frequent customer, and I just had to laugh out loud at that. I have heard that they delivered large quantities of chesnut gelati to him, however, which was supposedly his favorite?

Alla Scala
Piazza della Scala

I already mentioned this place in my post about Piazza della Scala. I really like this place; their cannella and pannacotta are both quite nice, although I wouldn’t recommend them together for the optimal eating experience (they’re almost too similar). The staff (Roberto and his dad. Well, an older man I assume is his dad) are super friendly, and it’s almost worth going there just to see them!

Piazza Lorenzo in Lucina (near the Corso)

My friend Marisa told me that she had great gelato near San Lorenzo. When I heard someone else rave about Ciampini, I wondered if it was the same place. I haven’t confirmed with her yet, but after tasting it, I’d venture to bet this was the stuff she had. Excellent quality– fantastic texture. A little on the more expensive side, but worth it. I was very happy with both chocolate and hazelnut!

north side of Piazza Torre Argentina, just a block to the left of the bookstore Feltrinelli’s

This place was recommended to me by my philosophy professor, Dr. Flippen. They’re known for their tartufo flavor– chocolate rum. It’s very, very dark chocolate… and very, very good. A few days ago I had their nocciola for the first time– and it’s definitely one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

San Crispino
Via della Panetteria, 42

San Crispino

Most people and journalists and gelato critics will say this is the best gelato in Rome. I’ve always heard about it, but hadn’t gone before this year. People say “it’s right near the Trevi” and I never bothered to really look for it– but it’s nice, because it’s down the street and around the corner from the Trevi– just far enough away that tourists don’t stumble upon it. If you find it, you’ve probably searched for it. And I like that.

Again, it’s expensive, the most expensive place I’m reviewing today. But I think it’s worth it for a special treat. They have some pretty exotic flavors, like their signature flavor, San Crispino, which is made with honey. They also have flavors like vanilla rum or apple. They’re known for their pistachio, but it has a lot of chunks of pistachio in it, so be prepared for that. The apple tasted like applesauce, which was nice in a bite… but not so nice in half a cup. The thing I wasn’t expecting was the subtly of their flavors. I could barely make out the vanilla rum. I like to be kicked in the head with the flavor sometime, so maybe that’s why I didn’t think this place was THE BEST. Very good, but THE BEST? It’s hard to say. My favorite flavor here is the straciatella. Straciatella (the best thing to compare it to is chocolate chip) is usually bright white with black chunks of chocolate… but their straciatella is much nicer– the chocolate has a nice taste and the gelato overall is a browner color– which you would expect if you mixed chocolate chunks into a cream, right? So I think overall it’s a much more natural straciatella, and I like it very much.

straciatella e pistachio (San Crispino)

straciatella and pistachio

Fior di Luna
Via Lungaretta, 96

Fior di Luna

I found this place through a blogroll called “Tour del Gelato.” (You can find the Tour del Gelato blogroll here.) It’s all-natural, and the gelati is made in smaller batches. I went there for the first time today and liked it a lot. I got chocolate and hazelnut, and was pretty impressed with both. The hazelnut almost gave Tartufo a run for its money, but not quite. This is very high on my list… perhaps third or second place.

cioccolato e nocciola (Fior di Luna)

chocolate and hazelnut

Alberto Pica
Via della Seggiola, 12

Alberto Pica

I had heard that this place was “award-winning” and convinced everyone to try it tonight (don’t try to guess how many places I went to today…). It was a nice hole-in-the-wall place– definitely NOT a tourist stop! Their quality was good, but I wouldn’t rank it at the top. Their specialty is riso… rice. Yes, rice. I actually got “riso alla cannella (cinnamon)” and was pleasantly surprised. It was unique, but paired with chocolate, it tasted really good. Of course, you can’t mind having little chewy rice bits in your gelati….

cioccolato e riso alla cannella  (Alberto Pica)

chocolate and riso alla cannella

Via Governo Vecchio, 112


This was my thought when I took my first bite of gelato from here today (I told you, stop counting…) “Why am I just now here!?” My friend Katy told me about it today on the bus, and I thought I’d give it a go. This might win the top spot in my book. My chocolate and pistachio were amazing.

cioccolato e pistachio (Frigidarium)

chocolate and pistachio.  The fact that the pistachio isn’t an unnatural bright green color won points in my book.

This brings us to the end of our tour!  I hope your mouth is watering!  I suppose I should have done this earlier in the semester… maybe it would have gotten my Dad over to visit me! : )

And still the question is unanswered.  What is the best gelateria in Rome?  I’m not going to say… but I am going to say- I’m going back to Frigidarium tomorrow to try their nocciola…


Filed under Uncategorized

early morning at the Vatican

This is the sight I saw this morning, coming out of St. Peter’s after Mass:

the Pope's home!

The Pope hard at work in his office after breakfast!  And the weather was nice and cool this morning, so he had his window open.  I love it!

Can you tell I’m going to miss living near him?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized