Home Again

Good evening, Rome:

Good morning, Minnesota:

Both beautiful sights to me!

Yes, I am back in the States, safe and sound.  (Since Friday, actually, but I’ve been working on overcoming jet-lag in the subsequent days after my arrival…)  Of course I was a bit sad to leave Italy, but being back in the land of Caribou Coffee, clean laundry, and, oh yeah, my FAMILY is great.  It’s been wonderful to sleep in my own bed, drive a car, get a haircut, go to a friend’s wedding, make Christmas cookies, play with my nephew, listen to Pandora, drink tea with reckless abandon, wrap presents, and just sit. on. the. couch.

Having had a few days to re-acclimate myself to the good ol’ U.S. of A., I think it’s time to give due props to the last semester.

How can I possibly sum it up?  (“Uff-da!” comes to mind, but that’s not very descriptive…)

I think I can pretty easily say that last semester was my most difficult semester so far, in a lot of ways.  I was challenged to my limits academically, spiritually, emotionally.  But of course, any challenge met willingly is opportunity for personal growth, and I think (I hope) that I used most of those challenges to the best of their advantage.  I’ve learned how to get by in a non-English speaking country, made some wonderful friendships,  and can tell you everything you’d ever want to know about ancient Roman Imperial portraiture.  I’ve discovered abilities I didn’t know I had and have grown to appreciate the importance of 4am conversations with people dearest to me (and, yes, sometimes those 4am conversations even happened with people in the same time zone as me).

I’m a big fan of lists, so here’s a list of a few things I learned this semester:

  • 95% of speaking a foreign language is getting over feeling self-conscious about speaking a foreign language.
  • Sometimes you have to leave America to do the most American things (i.e. Karaoke Night at a bar).
  • When asking for directions in Italian, there is a big difference between the number “quattordici” and “quattro dieci.”  (It’s okay though; we found the place the next day.)
  • DON’T EVER CUT YOUR SPAGHETTI!  (It just isn’t done.)
  • Giving a class presentation about an ancient structure while actually standing in front of said structure is pretty darn cool.
  • St. Peter’s is awesome. The Pope is awesome. The Universal Church is awesome.
  • Sprinting across cobblestones in flats is not the best idea.
  • Sometimes it’s better to stop studying for your archaeology final and take a walk to the Forum for inspiration instead.
  • There are a thousand little corners of Rome waiting to be discovered.
  • My two favorite museums are the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence.
  • It would be hard (read: impossible) to say what my favorite work of art was, but one that I found quite breathtaking in person was the Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii.
  • Kilkenny strong is good.  And even better with good company.
  • Italiano non è così difficile se si usano le tue mani.  (<–Even if your grammar isn’t so great…)
  • Making a stop in Pisa on the way to Florence just for a picture with the Leaning Tower is totally worth it.
  • If necessary, Nutella and crackers can be a suitable meal substitute.
  • I prefer Medieval Italy to Ancient Italy.  (But living on top of ancient ruins was pretty darn awesome too.)

There is, of course, much more that I learned; those are just a few highlights.  In case you haven’t had enough of me yet, I plan to keep using this blog for a little while longer because I still have a few more pictures and stories to share that my 17 credit hours wouldn’t allow.  I know it’s not quite as exciting now that I’m no longer in Italy, but feel free to check back if you’re interested!

Thanks again to everyone who’s checked out my blog this past semester; I’ve had fun writing it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed it and, like I said, stay tuned for more.


Lost in Translation?

Here are a few pictures from the past semester of things that I have found amusing.  Maybe they’re only funny to me, but I figured I should share them just in case you might find them amusing as well.  Enjoy!

"We are the impossible."

McDonald's Ketchup and Mayonnaise. Okay.

What's better than a mango named Alphonso? Alphonso and friends, of course!

Enyoj Dyslexia.

Where I did most of my Christmas shopping.

I guess that's one marketing strategy...

If you're quoting scripture, is Google Translate really necessary? (At the Vatican, no less.)

Okay, maybe the idea of "Fru Fru Pizza" is only funny to me...

Personally, I prefer angry sandwiches.

Good luck with finals, getting ready for the holidays, or whatever happens to be occupying you at the present moment!  Buon domenica!

Viva il Papa!

Well, it’s only taken me about three months, but I finally went to a Papal Audience on Wednesday!

The Successor of St. Peter

What an awesome experience!  It was really quite amazing, not only to see Papa B in person, but also to be in the midst of Catholics from all over the world.  They read the day’s Gospel reading in a number of different languages and the Pope gave a short address in each language as well.  An announcer would introduce the different groups who were present (choirs, pilgrims, schools, etc.), including specific mention of St. Mary’s College!  (I waved to the Pope when they announced us.)  There were a few musical performances for the Pope, my favorite of which were these guys:

This kind of makes it look like we they were showing “Heidi” on the big TV.  Just to prove that those guys were actually there, I’ll show you another picture:

All-in-all, it was an awesome experience.  And I got an apostolic blessing out of the deal, which extends to my family as well!  How cool is that??

Incidentally, the Gospel reading was really perfect for the beginning of finals:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” ~Matthew 11:28-30

God is good.  Good luck to everyone who will be taking finals soon!

Fruits and Vegetables in Italy

Ciao, everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  I recently got another great question via e-mail from one of the third-graders!

Dear Miss Jenni,

I saw the picture of the vegetables on your web page.  They look like vegetables here, what are they called?  Do any gelato flavors have vegetables?

Angela M.

Hi Angela!

Most of the vegetables and fruits here are the same as in America.  Italians have peas, carrots, tomatoes, apples, oranges, and all sorts of other fruits and vegetables that you would recognize.  They do have some different ones though.  For example, in the picture you mentioned, there was a type of broccoli that is different from the broccoli we have in America; it’s called “Romanesco broccoli.”  There was also a fruit called “quince”  (“mele cotogne” in Italian), which is a fruit in the apple family.

Another vegetable that is common here, but not in America, is what the Italians call “fiori di zucca” (FEE-or-ee  DEE  TSOO-kah), or zucchini flowers.  You can get zucchini flowers on sandwiches, in pasta, or–my favorite–dipped in batter and deep-fried.

Fiori di Zucca (Image: geniuscook.com)

There are some fruits and vegetables that grow especially well here because it doesn’t get too cold in the winter.  Grapes, olives, pomegranates, and citrus fruits are good examples of this.

An Olive Tree in the Villa Adriana

One type of fruit that I’ve been meaning to try is called a persimmon.  I’ll let you know what it’s like when I try it:

Sliced Persimmons

I haven’t seen any vegetable-flavored gelato yet.  I think the weirdest flavors I’ve tried are ginger and licorice (which don’t go together too well, by the way!).  If I find any vegetable flavors, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Thanks so much for your question, Angela!  I hope I answered it for you!


Miss Jenni


Keep the comments or questions coming!  You can 1) leave a comment, 2) send me an e-mail (jenstogata@gmail.com), or 3) send a letter via snail-mail.  Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Un Week-end Fantastico (A Fantastic Weekend)

What a delightful (long) weekend it’s been!  We had our Thanksgiving banquet on Wednesday afternoon and we got Thanksgiving off, so I’ve had a nice long time to catch up on some sleep and explore the city.  Here’s the run-down of what I did:

Climbed the Spanish Steps at sunset,

Walked around the city and saw some beautiful fall colors,

Went to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (the Holy Cross in Jerusalem) and saw relics from the Passion of Christ including pieces of the True Cross, thorns from the crown of thorns, a nail, and several other things,

Climbed the Scala Santa (“Holy Stairs”), which are believed to be the ones on which Christ was presented to Pontius Pilate (St. Helen found them and brought them from Jerusalem to Rome in the 4th century),

(Pilgrims traditionally ascend on their knees, pausing on each step to say a prayer.)

Went to the Ara Pacis Museum and saw an Audrey Hepburn exhibit, which included the vespa from “Roman Holiday,”

Window shopped along the Via del Corso,

Went to the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona,

Ate a giant doughnut at the Christmas Market,

Watched live music at the bus stop near my hotel,

Ate spaghetti alla carbonara.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful break.

Now, back to reality…They don’t call it study abroad for nothing!

Happy Liturgical New Year!  (I can’t believe it’s Advent already!)  I hope all you English Mass goers are enjoying the New Translation!  Buon lunedì, amici!

Your Daily Dose of Beautiful: Florence Edition

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This song, “Nuper Rosarum Flores,” was written by the French composer Guillaume Dufay for the consecration of the Florence Cathedral (“The Duomo”) on March 25, 1436.  Though a matter of controversy, it has been speculated that the proportions in the meter of the music (when analyzed theoretically) were written to mimic the architectural proportions of the dome itself.

The poet Petrarch was born in Arezzo, Italy in 1304.  He grew up in a small town near Florence and was a contemporary of both Boccaccio and Dante.  He is considered, by some, to be the “father of the Renaissance” because of his work in developing the philosophy of humanism.  When I was in Florence, I purchased a copy of his “Canzoniere” (“Collection of Poems”).  Here’s one of his poems from that collection:


Father in heaven, after wasted days,

after the raving that laid waste my nights,

with that fierce love that set my heart alight,

gazing upon those dangerous sweet ways,


now grant that I, illumined by your grace,

turn to a life where higher tasks invite,

and see my enemy’s defeat, despite

the nets he spread in vain for my disgrace.


Now ends, O Lord, the eleventh year since I

was first subjected to the pitiless yoke

that weighs most painfully on the most meek.


On my unworthy sufferings miserere,

recall my errant thoughts to a better place;

remind them that today you were on the cross.

And finally, a “fine picture” of the Florence Cathedral, more commonly known as the Duomo.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but this church is truly breathtaking in person.

The Duomo, Florence

Now it’s up to you to “speak a few reasonable words,” but I’m quite confident you can do it.  Buon venerdì, amici!

Buon Ringraziamento! (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Our Thanksgiving Banquet at the Hotel

Being in Europe for Thanksgiving is rather odd and a little sad, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be here.  I’m also grateful to the young American who stopped to wish my friends and I a happy Thanksgiving just outside Piazza Navona; sometimes it’s the little things.  I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving.  Take a minute to count your blessings; they’re probably more numerous than you realize.

Il Cibo Italiano (Italian Food)

Hey everyone!  I hope you had a great weekend!  I had a full weekend with trips to the archaeological excavations at Ostia Antica (an ancient harbour town at the mouth of the Tiber), the Capitoline museum, Pisa, and Florence!  I’ll post more on those trips later, but for now I wanted to answer a question for the third-grade class.  Rachel had another great question, this time about the food in Italy:

Dear Miss Jenni
I got your letter and I saw that you didn’t see the Pope but it’s okay. Thank you for sending me the window picture from the Pope. I want to ask you another question. Do you know what they eat there? I know they eat spaghetti and pizza and pasta but what else do they eat? Thank you for helping us figure out more about Italy.
Love, Rachel (see you soon!)

Hi Rachel!

You’re right about the spaghetti, pizza, and pasta; we eat a lot of that in Italy!  For breakfast, I usually eat a cornetto (a breakfast pastry) and drink a caffè americano (American-style coffee).  My favorite flavor of pastry is amarena crema (ah-mah-REH-na CREH-ma) which has a sour cherry filling and a creamy filling.

Italian Breakfast

Most days for lunch, I have a panino (pah-NEE-noh), which is the Italian word for sandwich.  Usually I have a ham and cheese sandwich, but sometimes I’ll try something different that we don’t have in America.  Here’s an example: one time I had a sandwich with walnuts, cheese, and some sort of vegetable that I’d never had before:

An Italian Panino

For dinner here, we eat all sorts of things!  The Italians love different types of soup, which we have on a regular basis at my hotel.  We have vegetable soups, bean soups, and different soups with pasta.  One of my favorites is tortellini (pasta with meat and/or cheese inside) and broth.  It kind of reminds me of Ramen noodles, but it’s a lot better!  You’re right about pasta; the Italians eat it all the time here.  But because they eat it so much, they have many different kinds!  Some have creamy sauces, some have spicy sauces, some have meat, some have vegetables–the choices are endless!

Pasta All'arrabbiata (Penne in a spicy red sauce)

I don't know what this one was called, but it had cheese, nuts, golden raisins, and cauliflower.


One thing that surprised me is that you can’t get spaghetti and meatballs here!  Apparently that’s not something real Italians ever eat.

You were also right about pizza.  The Italians make really delicious pizza!  Pizza here is served either as two pieces put on top of each other (like a pizza sandwich), or as a personal size pizza.  I think the best pizza I’ve had was in Naples; they’re famous for their pizza.  Just like the pasta here, the Italians have all different kinds of pizza that you can’t get in America.  For example, a common type of pizza here is one with olive oil, slices of potatoes, and rosemary.  I’ve even had pizza with hot dogs on!

Hot Dog Pizza

Pizza in Naples

Enjoying Some Margherita (cheese, tomato sauce, and basil) Pizza in Florence

Pizza in Front of the Pantheon

The Italians love to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  Sometimes we even have fresh fruit for dessert!

A Stand at the Farmer's Market in Campo de'Fiori

I think my favorite of all Italian food is the gelato, which is the Italian version of ice cream.  They have ice cream shops everywhere in Italy!  One of my favorites gelato places is called Giolitti’s where you can get almost any flavor you can imagine!


One row of flavors...

...And another row of flavors!

There is a lot more I could say about Italian food, but I hope this gives you an idea about some of the different kinds!  Thanks again for your question, Rachel!


Miss Jenni


I’d love to get more comments or questions.  You can 1) leave a comment, 2) send me an e-mail (jenstogata@gmail.com), or 3) send a letter via snail-mail.  Thanks for reading and have a great day!