Vicken Antounian

Week 5 – Rome, Italy

Ciao ragazzi! So you are never going to believe who I saw this week! Need a clue? Hint: P_pe Benedict XVI! Answer time, I saw Pope Benedict XVI! Ahh! I actually saw the Pope! I could not believe it! I saw the Holy Father himself!

Ok, I feel as though I am getting a little ahead of the story here. Let me explain it in a more organized fashion…

Once upon a time there lived a handsome, young blogger named Vicken. He was studying abroad in Rome and was dying to meet the Pope. Vicken’s wonderful friends at St. John’s University’s Rome Campus worked their magic fingers, and were able to get Vicken and his fellow peers tickets to the Pope’s Papal Audience-where they all saw the Pope!

It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Seeing the Pope in person evoked such emotions of happiness, love, and tranquility. His angelic presence mollified the audience and made us instantaneously forget about personal hardships.

Hearing the Pope speak was absolutely beautiful. At the Papal Audience, the Pope gave a brief summary of what he had done the previous week – kind of like his version of a weekly blog! The most extraordinary thing about hearing the Pope speak was listening to him speak in so many different languages! I learned that day that the Holy Father can speak Italian (Obviously), German, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Latin fluently! I was amazed!

A really cool part of the ceremony is when Pope Benedict gave a shout out to St. John’s University. (Basically what happened was that the Pope, or P-Ben XVI as I like to call him time to time, became our best friend!)

Pope Benedict XVI closed his beautiful ceremony by blessing everyone in the audience and his or her loved ones. It was truly a spectacular experience.

And can you believe all this magnificence happened on a Wednesday Morning!? How in the world could I top such an amazing day!

My weekend was pretty incredible as well! This past weekend, St. John’s University planned an excursion trip for its semester students! We explored the ancient ruins of Pompeii, visited the breathtaking island of Capri, and discovered the hidden secrets of Napoli.

The weekend excursion was a fun little getaway from Roma and a perfect way to end a perfect week!


Week 4 – Rome, Italy


Ciao America! It is your favorite Roman blogger, Vicken Antounian, here to tell you about another magnificent week in the eternal city. (I mean it is Italy-how could I not have fun right!?)

This week, I visited the San Callisto Catacomb! (*On a side note, let it be known that I have pretty much been dyeing to go to the Roman catacombs since I arrived in Roma! So the Catacomb of San Callisto was a huge deal for me!) Ahh! I was so excited to explore this underground haven of ancient Christian martyrs!

Our tour guide explained to us that the San Callisto Catacomb is one of the most famous of the Roman catacombs. It is the largest catacomb in Rome, with an estimated half-million tombs throughout its five stories. In 1849, Giovanni Battista de Rossi rediscovered San Callisto, making it the first catacomb to be rediscovered in modern times. Our tour guide also clarified that most bodies and Christian relics that used to be inside San Callisto had been transported to churches throughout Roma. Oh no! That meant that I was not going to have 500,000 dead bodies surround me as I wandered aimlessly around the dark passageways of the catacomb! What was I to do! Although I was sure that my brave self could handle any sort of freak zombie attack; I was relieved to hear that the catacombs were mostly empty.

I was so excited to see these early graves and place of religious practice. The second I walked down the daunting stairs into the actual tunnel, my heart began to race with excitement. I could not believe that I was actually standing where my early Christian ancestors hid to practice their religion freely. I was actually walking down the ancient tunnels where Christians before me lay as their final resting point before being reunited with God. This was an absolutely mind-blowing concept to think about!

My favorite part of my trip to San Callisto was when I participated in a mass being held all the way down in the depths of the Catacomb! My peers and I were exploring the ancient sanctuary, when all of a sudden, we heard beautiful religious hymns echoing within the sacred halls. We were confused as to where the source of these songs were coming from, so we unanimously decided to stray from our tour group and find the source of this holy music. (Obviously when I say that it was a unanimous decision, I mean that I decided to go on an adventure to find the source of this beautiful music while my friends reluctantly joined me!)

We followed the sound until we reached a very small and simple room, only decorated with a single cross in the center of it. In this humble room, stood a priest conducting a mass. When I saw this, I was literally left in astonishment! I was awestruck and fascinated with the idea that these few lucky people were experiencing mass at such a holy sight. These Christians, like their ancient ancestors before them, where practicing their religion in the catacomb! How spectacular is that! I could not help but join in on the spiritual fun!

I joined in on the ceremony, and even ate the holy Eucharist. It was honestly one of the most fulfilling experiences of my entire life. I don’t think I will ever forget that incredible experience!

Also this weekend, I went to the beautiful city of Pisa! It was such a spontaneous weekend trip. I literally woke up on Saturday morning and thought, “Hey! I think I’m in the mood to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa today!” So, naturally I just packed a small backpack of clothes, bought a train ticket to Pisa, and four hours later-I was at Pisa! Woo hoo! My two friends from school, Nikki and Luis, decided to join me on my trip as well!

I honestly could not believe that we were in Pisa! As soon as we got there, we found a hostel, we left our bags in the room, and before we knew it, we were out exploring all that Pisa had to offer!

Obviously the very first thing we did was, you guessed it-take a touristy Leaning Tower of Pisa picture! I am not going to lie, I had always secretly dreamed about taking that picture where it looks as though I am singlehandedly holding up that oh so famously crooked bell tower! I was so excited that my dream had finally become a reality!

The tower itself was gorgeous, and indeed very leaning! We climbed all 296 steps to the very top of the tower and got to see an absolutely breathtaking view of the entire city! We also visited the Duomodi Santa Maria Assunta, the Battistero di San Giovanni, and the Camposanto Monumentale.

We also had the most delectable Tuscan food in Pisa! By far the best meal we had in Pisa was a meter long pizza! Yes, we had a meter long pizza in Pisa! A meter of pure deliciousness is what that pizza was! It so worth that moment of “Oh-my-goodness-we-had-a-meter-of-pizza-guilt” that we felt after eating the meter long treat.

I also bought a bicycle in Pisa! Obviously we made many friends in Pisa, and I asked them how they travel around the city! All of their answers were unanimous-they traveled by “bicicletta”! They said most street vendors in Pisa sell bicycles in Pisa; you just have to ask them! So, that is exactly what I did. A man approached me and asked if I wanted to buy a “Rolex” watch. I said I was more interested in a “bicicletta.” He said he did not have any. (Or I mean I think he said that, because he was obviously speaking in Italian.) I said “Ok ciao,” and as I started walking away, he told me to wait and magically found a “bicicletta” to sell me! I am 99.9 percent sure that this man just sold me his own “bicicletta,” but that is besides the point, because I bought his yellow bicycle for 15 Euros and ride it every single day! I think that it was the best 15 Euro purchase I have made in Italia! You may be wondering how I brought back my “bicicletta” from Pisa-well I just put it on the train and brought it back home to Roma!

Over all, my week was a whirlpool of fun! I saw the San Callisto Catacombs, took pictures with the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or the “Leans” as I like to call it), ate a meter of pizza, and bought a “bicicletta!” So what I am really trying to say is, “Ti Amo Italia!” Xoxo Vick€n (I decided for the rest of the time that I’m in Europe, I’m going to do the $ sign thing like Ke$ha-instead with the € sign since I am obviously in Europe!)

Week 3 – Rome, Italy


Ciao Ciao! Come siete i miei amici! I hope your guys had as much fun ub the states as I did in Roma this week!

This week was unbelievable! You are never going to guess who I saw! Give up yet? I most definitely saw the Queen of Finland! Ahh!!! How awesome is that right!?!

So my royal adventure started when Domenico, a few peers, and myself all took a magnificent trip to visit “Il Vittoriano.” Il Vittoriano is a beautiful (and very large) white-marble monument of Vittorio Emanuele II or Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. It is often referred to as the “wedding cake” of Rome due to its ascending wedding-cake-like appearance. The majestic monument also holds the tomb of the unknown soldier of WWI, forever guarded by two soldiers and lit by an eternal flame, to always remind Italy of the troops who fought in the name of Italy. So it goes without saying that when in Roma, one needs to visit such an amazing and spectacular monument-and I intended to do just that!

So the group plan was that not only were we going to visit Il Vittoriano, but we were also going to get to go to the top of the monument and gaze at the breakthtaking views of Roma. But destiny had other plans for my friends and I! To our surprise, the exact day we were going to visit Il Vittoriano, the Queen of Finland was going to visit it as well! (Obviously that was clearly destiny knocking on my door, just asking me to marry the Queen and join her as a part of the Royal Family!) I was so excited! I could barely contain myself! Now I know, in reality- who ever thinks about the Queen of Finland? Answer: The people of Finland! However, I was still stoked to see a Royal!

So obviously we all unanimously decided that we would just stick around to see the Queen and visit the top of the monument afterwards. We all waited around anxiously awaiting the Queens arrival! And when she arrived, she arrived in style! She had hundreds of costumed soldiers, and orchestra, cars a nineteen-year-old boy only dreams about, and of course various diplomats. She looked very posh in her trendy business attire and short red hair. She gracefully walked and placed a beautiful reef on the tomb of the unknown solider. Although it was a very short appearance, it was indeed a spectacular sight to see!

Afterwards, we went up to the top of Il Vittoriano and gazed upon the glory that is Roma. We took pictures and enjoyed each other’s company. It was truly an amazing day!

This week I also started my Religions of the World course. I know what you are thinking, “Why in the world is this (handsome) boy excited to start a class!?” Yes it is a class; however, my teacher is definitely a Priest at the Vatican! Yes my teacher works with the Pope! How cool is that!

This weekend was also very jam packed with fun and adventure (and obviously gelato). I visited Castel Sant’Angelo! It is a beautiful, circular shaped castle originally built as the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian; however, later used as a castle for the Pope. Today it is a museum! I also visited Piazza Gianicolo, where I got to see another amazing view of the City. Piazza Gianicolo was really cool because everyday at noon, a cannon is fired in the direction of the Tiber River to signal the exact time in Roma! This tradition is dated back to the late seventeenth century when the cannon was fired to signal the bell towers of Rome to start ringing at midday.

Also, a couple of my friends and I took a day trip to a beautiful, black-sand beach near Roma. It was so wonderfully relaxing and a perfect way to end my week!

Ahhh! Ti Amo Roma! I never want to leave this spectacular city! Until next time! Arrivederci!

Week 2 – Rome, Italy


Ciao again from the “Eternal City!” I hope everything is magnificent back in the States! Everything is absolutely “benissimo” over here in Roma!

This week was another amazing week in Italy! Every day I fall more in love with this amazing city of Rome! It is amazing how much life flows through these historic (and quiet narrow) streets! Whether it be a Friday night, or a Tuesday morning-the Romans are always out and about having a great time. Also, the Italians are one of the nicest cultures I have ever encountered. Everyone I have met in Rome has been more than nice. They appreciate my efforts to talk to them in my Rosetta-Stone-Italian, and are always willing to lend a helping hand. I have come to the conclusion that the most important Italian phrase I have learned is, “Che cosa è quella plaza?” which translated into English means, “What is that building?” So much important history takes place all throughout Roma! Although all the monuments are spectacular and breathe taking, they would just become a pile of rocks without knowing their significance. So, I have learned to always carry around a cheesy and touristic “Guide to Rome” book so I get a brief understanding of the amazing places and monuments I am visiting.

This week, my mom and I continued to live our lives as Romans-after all, when in Rome, live as the Romans do! We ate so much delicious pasta! We also tried many different meats and cheeses, and of course-we ate plenty gelato! Words cannot describe how good food in Italy is. Think of your favorite food, multiply the amazing-ness of it my a billion, and that still does not even express how delicious food is in Roma!

My mom and I took some awesome trips this week as well. We visited the beautiful Villa d’Este and Villa Gregoriana this week in Tivoli, Italy. (Tivoli is approximately an hour away from Rome.) Oh my goodness, Villa d’Este was spectacular. Hundreds of fountains decorated the Villa, and made d’Este an unforgettable sight. Beautiful is an understatement for the magnificence that the aesthetically pleasing Villa projected!Villa Gregoriana was also very fun to visit. It was much bigger than Villa d’Este, which allowed for more exploration of the ancient ruins.

Also, my mom and I visited the beautiful Italian island of Capri this past weekend. Most travelers describe Capri as “the world’s Garden of Eden,” so obviously we had to check it out! Honestly, the only way I can describe the charming island is that it truly was a little piece of paradise. The three mille long was pure luxury. The relaxing turquoise water was so crystal clear, that one can actually see fishes swimming around his or her feet! The sun was shining and the water was at the perfect temperature for relaxing beach play in the Mediterranean. (How cool is that huh!? I swam in the Mediterranean Sea!)

Along with all my European fun, I started school this week. It is really fun! My professors are awesome and I got to meet so many new friends! All in all, this week was another dream come true! Rome is amazing and I feel so blessed that I could experience such an amazing opportunity like this! I seriously find myself sometimes standing in disbelief that I LIVE in such an amazing city as Roma!

Ciao for now my friends! Chi vediamo miei amici! (See you later my friends!)

Week 1 – Rome, Italy


After my horrible midterms were over, it was obviously time for some fun in the Italian sun! Now this weekend was no ordinary weekend here in Italy. This weekend was actually the opening weekend of Perugia’s annual Eurochocolate Festival!

Each October since 1993, Perugia, Italy has been the home to one of Europe’s most important chocolate festivals, the Eurochocolate Festival! It is during this chocolate festival that chocolatiers from around the globe come to exhibit their magnificent new chocolate creations! Obviously the fact that one of Europe’s grandest chocolate festivals is held in Italy meant that I clearly had to go to it!

Early Friday morning, my friend Nikki and I made our way over to Perugia, Italy! As soon as I arrived in this charming, medieval city, I wasted no time enjoying the chocolate festivities!

I started the day off by participating in Lindt Chocolate’s blind taste testing! This is how the blind test worked: First you got to taste Lindt’s delicious new flavors (aka yum)! Then you had to guess what ingredients where in the pieces of chocolate you just tried. If you guessed correctly, you won a giant chocolate bar! Obviously I guessed the ingredients correctly! And then I immediately ate the giant chocolate bar…

But oh no, do not worry! I definitely did not stop the chocolate inhaling there! After my giant bar of pure heaven, I had: a chocolate kebab, a chocolate crepe, a chocolate filled churro, chocolate tortellini, numerous samples of every kind of chocolate humanly possible, and of course I washed these all down with a delicious glass of warm nutella! Yummy!

You might be thinking, “How in the world did this kid possibly eat all this chocolate!?” Honestly, I do not even know how to address that question! I really do not know what crazy choco-fever came over me that I ate that much chocolate! Everyone just kept giving me chocolate, and I just kept eating it! It was an endless cycle of deliciousness!

The next day, Nikki and I visited the Perugina Chocolate Factory! (*Note: Perugina is one of Europe’s most prominent brands of chocolate. The most famous chocolate that Perugina produces is called Baci!) Words cannot describe the joy on our faces as we entered through the doors of this candy land! Literally, there was chocolate everywhere! The whole factory was covered in freshly made chocolates for the public to sample-and by sample, I mean eat until it is physically not possible to eat more chocolate!

Is this real life? I literally ate pounds and pounds of fresh chocolate! It was possibly one of the greatest things in my entire life!

We went on a tour of the entire factory, where we took a picture with the world’s largest single piece of chocolate! It was literally a gigantic piece of Baci! It was truly incredible! (I literally contemplated eating this gargantuan piece of Baci!)

Overall, I think I ate enough chocolate this weekend for myself, and probably the rest of the American population. It was quite possibly one of the greatest weekends of my entire life!

I decided I am going to just stick to salads this upcoming week, to balance out my magnificently unhealthy weekend!


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