Italy: Part 5

This will be my final Italy post! One of the major activities Noah and I did while I was Rome was a trip to the Great Synagogue and Museum. The Synagogue is located in what was formerly the Jewish ghetto, and it is still a working synagogue with services held three times a day.


The Great Synagogue was beautiful – very large and ornately decorated. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the synagogue or museum, so I don’t have photographs to share. I was unaware of this before, but Roman Jews consider themselves to be separate from both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. They have their own distinct pronunciation of Hebrew and their own tunes for prayers. There are currently 17 functioning synagogues in Rome (all orthodox – like most of the world outside of the US), and the Jewish community in Italy numbers about 35,000.

The former ghetto area around the synagogue still has a high Jewish population, and there are several kosher restaurants and bakeries, Judaica shops, and a Jewish school.

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Although Rome doesn’t have a particularly bright history with regard to the Jews, they are one of the only European cities to have never expelled the Jews. The ghetto was imposed as a side effect of the Catholic Counter-Reformation to the Protestant Reformation. In response to the Protestant movement, the Catholic Revival cracked down on ‘heretics’ of all kinds and – as a result – reduced the rights of Jews. Until that time, Jews had enjoyed a fairly comfortable place within Roman society.

The ghetto, of course, changed all that and up to 9,000 Jews were forced in the seven-acre ghetto for 300 years. Although most of the original ghetto storefronts and buildings are destroyed, there are still some remnants of the past – such as this 6 story building:


And a church that stood at one of ghetto’s exits:


The church was strategically placed at the ghetto’s exit so Jews would be forced to see it upon leaving. Many Jews were made to go to the church on Shabbat to listen.

Although the area has a negative history, it is now a bustling and vibrant reflection of the thriving Jewish life that still exists within the city. They even have free wifi on the streets!


Or claim to…we couldn’t really get it to work. 🙂

After a long afternoon touring the Great Synagogue, museum, and ghetto, it was time for lunch.


pizza and veggie antipasto

For my last night in Italy, we decided to have a great feast. We went to a pizzeria called Da Francesco.


Although technically a pizzeria, the restaurant had an extensive menu. Since it was my last night, we decided to do as the Romans do and go for the multi-course meal. To start, there was bruschetta, antipasto, and roman style artichoke (basically just an artichoke with tons of olive oil…as far as I could tell).

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For the primo (first) course, we shared a pasta dish – homemade spaghetti with porcino cheese and black pepper:


For the secondo (second, and main) course, I ordered a roasted chicken breast dish and Noah had pizza:

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Everything was delicious, but our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs and we weren’t able to finish everything:


Overall, my trip was amazing. Between seeing the sights, eating great food, and visiting the most wonderful boyfriend in the history of the world, I had a great week. 🙂

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 4


Sticks and Stones

Before I write another post about my Italy trip, I want to share something that happened while I was in Rome that wasn’t so spectacular. I’ve been talking a lot about the great food and sights, but when I first got to Italy, there was an incident that made me feel like the trip would be ruined.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Noah and I took a free walking tour around the city center right after I arrived and got settled.

The tour guide counted our group at the beginning to see how many we were. 11..12..13…and then pointing at me twice…14.

Me: “um, what?”
Tour Guide: “you’re pregnant?”
Me: “um, no.”

There may be people who would let something like this slide right off them, or laugh about it, or tell it as a funny story later that day. I am not one of those people. At least not right now. Maybe one day…hopefully. Because what I experienced in that moment felt truly horrible. On the outside, I was doing everything I could not to start crying right that moment. On the inside, my thoughts were something like this: you are fat. you are horrible. you are disgusting. your belly is so huge and fat that you look like you’re pregnant. everyone thinks you’re enormous. you need to lose weight. why do you eat so much? you used to be skinny, how did you let yourself go this far?

You get the idea. Needless to say, with this soundtrack running in my head I was completely miserable for the rest of tour and pretty much the rest of the entire first day.

eating disorder recovery, inspirational photography, quotes, nature photo, beach, Ocean, sea shore[source]

My emotions were…

mad. Why would the guide say that? Did she have any idea what her comment had done to me?

embarrassed. How many people heard that? Did they agree?

self destructive. How could I let myself look that way? I should be ashamed to be in my own body.

For anyone who is familiar with eating disorders and treatments, you know that dialogues with ED are a helpful and powerful tool. For those who are unfamiliar, ED stands for eating disorder, and those who struggle with disordered eating learn to think of ED as a separate entity that tries to influence how they think, behave, feel, etc. Creating dialogues with ED are incredibly powerful tools because they let the individual separate themselves from their eating disorder and allow backtalking to ED. Here’s an example of how an internal dialogue might go:

ED: You are fat. You shouldn’t wear that outfit because it makes you look fat.
Me: No it doesn’t. I like this outfit and I am not fat.
ED: Yes, you are. You should lose weight and then you would look better in your clothes.
Me: My clothes look fine, and you make me unhappy. Go away ED.

In that dialogue, I won. Basically, the point is to learn to stand up for yourself and realize how destructive ED is.


And the good news is, I’ve been winning a lot lately. Pretty much all the time in fact, and I think I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have ED win. That’s why this ‘pregnancy incident’ felt so destructive. This time, the conversation went more like this:

ED: You are so fat you look pregnant.
Me: I can’t believe that happened.
ED: Remember all those times you talked back to me and said you weren’t fat? Well this proves that you were just deluding yourself and you are pregnant.
Me: Maybe she was confused? Maybe it was the way my clothes were falling at the moment?
ED: She wasn’t confused. Those clothes are on YOUR BODY. Which looks pregnant. If you weren’t fat, she wouldn’t have said that.
Me: You’re right.
ED: I can’t believe you let yourself become like this.
Me: I can’t believe I let myself become like this.
ED: You need to do something.
Me: You’re right.

At that point, I felt powerless to talk back and felt as though the entire trip would be ruined. How tragic that literally the first thing I did in Rome involved this incident?! It seemed almost laughable then that only a few hours ago I had been on the plane excited to enjoy lots of good Italian food without letting ED get in the way. haha

I made it through to that night without losing it, and then lose it I did. I felt like all the hard work I did had disappeared, and I told Noah that when the guide said that to me, it was as though something inside me felt completely destroyed.


Then, Noah said something that really resonated with me. He said, “you don’t have to let her destroy you.” What a concept?! When I was in the thick of my recovery, ‘you always have a choice’ was a little bit of a mantra for me, but in my current state of distress (and feeling a bit rusty at combating ED), I had lost sight of that. So, it was back to basics:


Once I mentally retook ownership of my fate from ED, I immediately started to feel better. I won’t lie, the comment continued to sneak into my mind over the next few days (and even now), but I have been able to combat it and remember:


Yes, I was brought down and totally caught off guard by this incident. But I’m up and moving now.

I know that ED blew this incident out of proportion, and that my body is fine. More importantly, I know that I am loved and hopeful and blessed in so many ways.

Sometimes I really believe that 100%, and sometimes I feel like I am just talking back to ED. Either way,

How to fly quote mamavision[source]

So, on that note, to me and anyone else struggling…



Italy: Part 4

On two of the days I was in Italy, Noah had class, so I was left to entertain myself. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to do more of the super-touristy activities Noah had already done.

The first activity was Rick Steves’ ‘Heart of Rome’ Walking Tour. This tour brought me through all the major sights in downtown Rome. The walking tour started at Campo de Fiori – a piazza in downtown Rome that houses a market every morning.


The market sold pretty much everything you can imagine from fruits to pasta to clothes to kitchen supplies:

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I got a late start to the day, so by the time I was finished exploring Campo de Fiori my stomach was grumbling for lunch. I stopped in at a pizzeria and bakery that looked to be very busy (I took this as an indication that it was very good). The crowds seemed to indicate the truth, because the veggie pizza was delicious. I also ordered an aroncini to try (a fried Italian rice ball):


After lunch, the tour’s next stop was Piazza Navona with the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) and some impressive Baroque architecture.

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The tour led me by the Pantheon again:


The book described the light coming down through the Pantheon’s oculus as ‘the greatest column in all of Rome.’


I thought that was really beautiful. 🙂

After the Pantheon, it was time to pass by the Parliament buildings…


…which just happens to be nearby to the most famous gelatteri in Rome: Giolitti!


Obviously, I needed to try it out for myself.

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It did not disappoint! I tried the nutella and crema flavors – but I wanted to try everything! The nutella was especially rich and delicious.

After gelato, I moved on to the Trevi fountain:


Perhaps because of the small space, this site seemed more packed with tourists than any of the others!


The tradition goes that if you through a coin in the Trevi Fountain, than it will ensure your return to Rome. Hey, it worked last time – so might as well!

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The final stop on the ‘Heart of Rome’ walking tour was the Spanish Steps:

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The Spanish Steps get their name from the Spanish Embassy which has been near them for over 300 years. The steps themselves don’t have any major historical significance, but they’ve become a media icon through Roman Holiday and the fact they were a popular hang out spot for John Keats and other Romantics.

For my next solo day, I explored the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. Rick Steve’s ‘Roman Forum Walking Tour’ starts at the Arch of Titus – a monument to commemorate the defeat of Judea:

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The Arch of Titus is the gateway to the forum, and the rest of the tour explores the various ruins of temples, legal buildings, and outdoor pathways. Highlights include the Basilicae where people met for matters of law or business (and after which Christian basilicas would later be modeled):


The Temple for Julius Caesar, dedicated to the spot where he was burned after being assassinated:

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The Temple of Vesta where Vestal Virgins kept an eternal flame lit:


And the only original door from Roman times:


From the Forum, I walked up to Palatine Hill where the emperors built their homes palaces. The remains on the hill were even scanter than on the forum…


But there was a fairly well preserved garden area that had been used for exercise:


Well preserved perhaps due to the modern upkeep 🙂


Visiting the Colosseum certainly will take your breath away.


The structure is massive (hence, it’s name), with a base of 6 acres. Imagining the terror that occurred inside is a little scary though.

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Used for gladiator fights and other spectacles, the Colosseum was the site of much blood and brutality. When it originally opened, a 100-day festival followed that resulted in the death of 2,000 men and 9,000 animals. Workers had to move around the building spraying perfume to mask the smell of blood!

Once Christianity became the dominant religion and slaughtering people wasn’t considered PC anymore, the Colosseum closed and has been in a state of deterioration ever since. Nonetheless, it is fairly well preserved and an incredible testament to the structural abilities of the ancient Romans (or rather, the abilities of their slaves!).

After the Colosseum, I went for lunch at a restaurant in the area recommended by Rick Steves. They gave me a free drink since they saw I had the Rick Steves book!

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Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 5

Italy: Part 3

One of the biggest highlights of my Italy trip was biking the Appian Way.

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The Appian Way, or via Appia, is an early and strategically important Roman road. This was the first long road that could be used to transport troops outside of Rome. The road connects to areas south of Rome, and it was the main way to transport military supplies and troops. Now, the road is used as a walking, jogging, and biking trail amid beautiful landscapes. Along the trail are also several sights, including several churches, catacombs, and circus of maxentius.

Noah and I decided that biking the Appian Way would be a great way to spend one of our weekend days together. We took a bus out to the road and rented bikes at a small cafe.

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We traveled leisurely, stopping to look at all the sights:

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The trail was beautiful:

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The secluded trails felt so distant from central Rome even though we weren’t that far away:


After biking the length of trail and backtracking to the bike-rental cafe, we decided to get lunch:

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After lunch, we read more Rick Steves while we waiting for the bus:

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Rick Steves is the best. All of his walking tours are incredibly informative, easy to follow, and interesting! I would highly recommend his guidebooks to anyone interested in self-directed travel.

When the bus came, instead of heading straight back to the city, we made a detour at Aqueduct Park. The park was really neat for two reasons. First, it shows the remains of Rome aqueducts – an incredible engineering accomplishment! Second, the park was full of Italians having picnics, grilling, and enjoying the sunshine. It was fun to be in an area with real Italians living their regular lives instead of in the city center surrounded by tourists.

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Walking through the park and exploring the aqueducts gave us a little hike, and we had a lot of fun making our way through the park’s trails:

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When we got back after the park, we were both exhausted from all the adventures and time outside. The solution to our fatigue took the delicious form of a restaurant call Il Brillo Parlante.

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Il Brillo is a wine bar/restaurant with an assortment of traditional Italian dishes and homemade pastas


I ordered a pesto pasta dish and a side of veggies. Noah ordered bruschetta and lamb.

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This pasta dish may have been the best meal I had during my visit. The noodles were small and tightly twisted with a wonderfully chewy consistency. The pesto sauce was phenomenal, and the pasta was served inside of a fried bread shell that was DELICIOUS. The vegetables tasted so fresh and flavorful even though they were only prepared by boiling. Big win for the restaurant!

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5

Italy: Part 2

My second day in Italy, we took another free walking tour that ended at the Vatican. It was a perfect opportunity to check out St. Peter’s Basilica!

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St. Peter’s is enormous! There are markings on the floor to show how many of the world’s other large churches would fit inside this one. The dome inside is the largest in the world, reaching nearly 450 ft in height!


Entrance to the basilica is free, and Noah and I did a Rick Steves’ walking tour while inside to learn all about it. Afterwards, we walked to lunch, passing through Piazza del Popolo:

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Lunch was something I have looked forward to for approximately 2.5 years. No kidding! About that long ago I went to Italy with my fabulous besty for a fun-filled 10 day tour. While we were in Rome, we ate lunch at a vegetarian restaurant that had THE MOST DELICIOUS BUFFET IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Part of our obsession with that lunch may have been due to the fact that we were super hungry when we got there. Nonetheless, I have thought of that restaurant ever since, and it was probably the #2 thing I was looking forward to on my visit (after seeing Noah, of course).

The restaurant: Il Margutta RistorArte.


Could the lunch buffet live up to my idolized memory of it?!

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Why yes, yes it could. So good! I wish this restaurant lived in Minneapolis. Or maybe I don’t…it would probably put a dent in my wallet. And have the opposite affect on my waistline.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Rose Gardens.

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We sat on a bench in the garden for a while talking and enjoying the beautiful weather/surroundings. Look what we found – a beautiful heart!




My second day in Italy wouldn’t be complete without….


Gelato! Gelato is seriously EVERYWHERE in Italy. Every other storefront seems to sell it. So, obviously, by the end of the day, it’s pretty hard not to have some. Noah and I found a great little gelato place near the B&B where we were staying that had a wide range of flavors (listed in English as well as Italian), plus some interesting gelato pops and balls:


We went to this place several times during my visit and always tried different flavors:


Mollie: “I feel guilty eating gelato twice in one day.”Noah: “That’s okay. One time I had gelato twice in the same lunch period.”

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5

Italy: Part 1

Hello again! Sorry for the long hiatus in blogging. I have a good excuse though:


The countdown got to zero…so I’ve been in Italy! Or should I say, Italia. Traveling there went smoothly – with the exception of a mix-up regarding the bus schedule that led me to frantically take a taxi to the airport:


Sadly, my exact change that I had so deliberately collected for the bus ride there will now need to be used for laundry:


When, I got to the airport, I made it through security and had time to eat the lunch (almond flour pizza for one) I brought before boarding:

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Obviously, a quick stop at Caribou was necessary:


I was going to go to Starbucks since I like their tea selections better, but it makes me mad that Starbucks expects you to pay more money for a medium tea than a small when they’re only giving you more hot water….so, Caribou it was!

After a quick layover in Philadelphia, I was on my way to Rome! The best part of international flights? Definitely the individual entertainment stations.

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Yes!!! Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 2. Doesn’t take a lot to keep me happy. 🙂 In addition to watching Twilight and Life of Pi, I also read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food which I bought a couple weeks ago at Magers and Quinn. I loved it! I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about a common sense approach to nutrition and eating.


If individual entertainment stations are the best part of international travel, in-flight meals are the worst:


I special ordered a vegetarian meal prior to the flight, so my rice/veggie mixture was bad but not terrible (really I was just super excited for all the delicious Italian food I would be consuming over the next week!). When I finally made it to Rome the next morning, I was SO EXCITED to see this handsome fellow waiting for me at the airport:


While we were waiting for the train to take us from the airport into Rome, Noah got a Cappuccino at the bar (very Italian!):

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When we got into the city, it was too early to check into the Bed & Breakfast where we were staying, so we went to Noah’s apartment. There were great views from the window!

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We also visited a nearby fruit market with loads of produce, flowers, and prepared foods:

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I got some oranges and pears to eat during the week:


When we finished at the market, it was time to head to the B&B! We were staying at a place called Parioli House near the Policlinico Metro Stop. It was very cute with tea, fruit, and snacks available all the time in the foyer:

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After we got settled in the room, we set off to take a walking tour. There’s a company called Rome Free Walking Tour, which is exactly what it sounds like. Perfect for the stingy traveler! Noah and I took two tours: one through the Heart of Rome and one from the Spanish Steps to the Vatican. The one to the Vatican was MUCH better, but we saw a lot of cool stuff on both. Highlights include….

The Colosseum and Forum:

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The Trevi Fountain:


The Pantheon:

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Piazza Navona:


and the Vatican:


Stay tuned for more information on these places later….

Also, did I mention that we are silly and love Rick Steves?

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And finally, the perfect ending to the first day…DINNER! We went to a restaurant that specialized in wood-fired pizzas:

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There were neat paintings all over the walls:

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We ordered a tuna pizza and a veggie pizza:

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Plus a side dish of eggplant:


Sooo good. And, in true Italian form, an espresso after the meal:


Check back soon for info on St. Peter’s Basilica, biking the Appian Way, and great Italian cuisine!

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5