Because taking care of the Earth isn't just for hippies!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Monte Serrata

At the beginning of January, I found a group of women who go on full-day, genuine hikes every Wednesday. I was so excited to actually make use of my hiking boots again!! They meet early in the morning and bring a packed lunch to eat on the hike.

Two weeks ago I went with this group to Monte Serrata, which is about an hour north of Rome. The group consists of mostly women who are foreigners but living in Italy permanently. I was by far the youngest, but I enjoyed their company very much!

The day started at 8 am, meeting early so as to avoid rush hour traffic in Rome. As we were driving towards the mountain, it was very foggy outside and we were worried that it might be rainy. Being January, what is supposed to be the rainy season, it was a good possibility. The hike started in a city that was positioned on the top of one of three peaks on a the mountain. As we approached the city, the fog was left below us in the valley, creating the illusion of a sea which we were driving through only minutes before. The mountain appeared, not as a mountain, but as three tiny islands. Above the fog the skies were blue and sunny, the air crisp and clear.

The hike started out on a small road that was actually the driveway to a monastery that was on top of the second peak. Then we ventured off the road onto the real trail. It was so refreshing to be climbing over rocks again, rather than pavement! Once we got to the top of the mountain, the trail followed the ridge, providing an amazing view of the valley below. There was still plenty of fog, but it was starting to clear in some areas. We arrived at the main entrance of the monastery and stopped for a water break, since there was a small fountain there. Then we continued on to the last and highest peak, which didn't have anything on it currently, but there appeared to be ruins of a chapel there.


We stopped there for lunch. Oh it was so beautiful! After lunch, we went back towards the town on a different route, that went pretty much straight across to the town where we started. It was such a relaxing and refreshing day, I'm looking forward to many more amazing hikes on the coming Wednesdays!!

Hikers- M.Soratto

Our group

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


During Christmastime, Piazza Navona in downtown Rome is transformed into a Christmas carnival with a carousel, amusement park games, street performers, crafts for sale, the most candy and tacky toys you've ever seen in your life, and little witches hanging on the corner of all the booths. When I first saw this, I was certainly perplexed. What was up with all of these witches? The witch's name is Befana, and she brings Italian Children presents on January 6th. How, in such a Catholic country, is there a tradition that a witch brings presents?

Well, of course, there's a story behind it - and it does link back to Christmas (kind of). Here's the version I heard. There are variations, and I'm not sure which is the "right" one.

The three kings were on their way to visit the baby Jesus by way of Italy, and they needed a place to stay. The witch, being a witch, refused to let them stay in her home when they asked, so they went on and kept looking. Afterwards, the witch felt really bad for being so mean, so ever since then she has given children presents on the day the kings arrived to visit Jesus to try to make up for her mean behavior. Interesting, isn't it?

Pix 010

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Tivoli - the city of a thousand fountains - is about 40 minutes outside of Rome by train. My friend, Annika, and I decided to head out there the day before she went back to Estonia. It's a really cute city just like so many others near Rome, but is famous for it's Villas. Alas, by the time we got out there, it was after lunch. All of the Villas closed around noon for lunchtime, and reopened somewhere between 2:30 and 4. This is to be expected, but what we weren't expecting was that all of the Villas closed for the day around 4:10 because it's wintertime. We missed the 10 minute window when one could gain entrance in the afternoon, not knowing this until it was too late. So we weren't able to see the beautiful Villas that everyone raves about, but the city was beautiful on it's own, and we managed to have plenty of fun anyway.

Of course, there was also the spectacular sunset from the city walls as well.


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The Vatican at Christmastime

Some more beautiful scenes from St. Peter's square.....




I also created a desktop wallpaper of the last photo, if anyone wants to download it for next Christmas, here's a link.

It's pretty much the same as the above, but I added "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." beneath the nativity.

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Christmas party

Ok, so my plan is to try to post all of these pictures and stories sequentially - starting with the oldest. So here goes....

Before Christmas, me and my friends from Torre di Babele (the language school) had a "Christmas dinner." Most of the people in the group would be returning home just before Christmas, so it was also kind of a goodbye party for a lot. We spent the whole day decorating and cooking food, then people started to arrive around 7 pm. The whole evening turned out really nicely. Our idea was to have an international Christmas party, so we tried to incorporate foods and/or traditions from everyone's home country. I brought green bean casserole (made with genuine American cream of mushroom soup!), Eva (who is German) made apple strudel, Nuno (Portuguese) made a pork and rice dish that was very yummy, Annika (Estonian) brought some cookies and Lingenberry jam (which also doubled as the Swedish food), etc, etc. We also made a sign that said Merry Christmas in everyone's native language. It was quite a fun night!

Here's a picture:

Pildid - ice club jne 135

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I'm back!

It's been quite a long time since I've posted anything new on here (over a month now!). I've been having difficulties with the "new" blogger and had to find another program I could use for composing my posts when I'm not connected to the internet. I think I've worked out all the kinks now, so be prepared for several posts in the next few days to catch up on all that's happened in the past month!