What road led you to Rome?
I came to Rome to study art history for a year and never left. When I first arrived in August 2015, it was hot and my feet hurt so badly from walking ten kilometers a day on the cobblestone streets. I loved the pizza al taglio and the small-town feel of Trastevere, where I had my first apartment. Everything about Rome was perfect, it was an exciting city with a small-town vibe.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
When I was 15 I went abroad for a year in France with the Rotary. Up until that point, I had been going to the same girl’s school in Charleston, South Carolina since forever, and I largely lived in a utopian bubble. Moving to the countryside of Vendôme in the Loire region was a difficult experience, from living with a host family that wasn't always understanding, to learning a whole new set of social norms, to socializing with French kids in a language I could barely speak. After a few months of total immersion, I spoke fluent French, understood the ins and outs of French culture, and even started to make friends. Over many trips to Paris, I started to take a serious interest in art history, too, which I later pursued a degree in.
The reverse culture shock I experienced when I came back from France was even harder than the culture shock of going there. Back in Charleston, I tried to settle in but I had a new understanding of myself as a citizen of the world. I can remember the feeling like yesterday—the world was my oyster. I couldn’t wait for my next adventure, wherever that might be. The next summer at 16, I begged my father to send me to bartend at his friend’s bar in Antigua, Guatemala called Café No Sé to learn Spanish. I think you can imagine how that went over. Nonetheless, I managed to swing an age-appropriate, low-budget European summer in Spain, England, and France staying at friends’ houses I met from Rotary with my little sister in tow. I especially loved the time I spent in Southern Europe, and I knew college was my chance to do something serious. It was becoming more and more clear that Italy, with its rich culture and art history, could be the next place for me.
All of these experiences abroad at an extremely impressionable age made me a third culture kid in certain ways. The citizen of the world mindset I first felt at 15 has become ingrained in me, and I mostly believe that home-is-where-the-heart-is. I have found a second home abroad, but at the end of the day, no place or person could ever replace the way that Charleston means home to me.
What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
I am a Virgo, and as such spontaneity is not something I’m known for. But my friends and boyfriend have definitely brought tons of spontaneity into my life. When the lockdown ended in Italy and we could move from region to region, my boyfriend and I woke up on Saturday morning with no plans and jumped in the car to go to the sea. We made it all the way to Naples and then booked a hotel in Praiano. We had the entire Amalfi Coast to ourselves that weekend! And this approach to life has become my mantra these days: less thinking, more doing.
What does AWAR mean to you and how has it impacted your life?
The cookbook! The cookbook was such a fun project to take on during the weirdness of the Italian lockdown and subsequent social distancing. Cooking and learning about food is one of my favorite hobbies, and it was exciting to be a part of making a book that revolves around everything I love—telling stories through recipes and cooking. Eating meals together is so important, and sharing written recipes, or photographing dishes, was like a replacement for our normal ritual.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I would like to think that from a young age I had a very sophisticated palate. At 10 years old, I told a local Charleston newspaper what my favorite food was, “lamb lollies”, aka frenched roasted lamb rack, roasted whole and then cut into lollipop-like pieces. I also told them that my dream was to become a food critic. It’s no surprise, because growing up my family lived and breathed food. They still do. For now, if I could change career paths, I’m dreaming about working for the Michelin Guide’s Star Committee to try all of the best restaurants in the world.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Rome?
When I first moved to Rome, a Roman brought me to Emma on a date. I fell in love (with the restaurant!). When I moved to Piazza del Monte di Pieta months later, Emma was my go-to. I ate there at least once a week for years, and it is where I learned to order food in Italian. I always asked for the Italian menu when they gave me the English one, and with my forward-thinking gay friend who almost always joined me, we made sure to keep the waiters on their toes! They quickly started giving me, a girl, the check. And the wine list.
Who would you most want to have dinner with?
I want to have dinner with my grandmother, Llewellyn, who knew everything, as grandmothers do. I want to ask her all of the things I didn’t think to ask her. She always knew the right things to say and do. When I am going through a difficult moment, she is on my mind all the time.
Can you tell us a bit about what you are doing now in Rome?
While pursuing my degree in art history and communications, I worked in galleries, wrote articles, and assisted curators and artists. I panicked when I graduated, desperate to have a, “real”, “serious” job, and I went to work at KPMG in consulting. Working with Excel and SAP certainly fast-tracked my decision to enroll in a master’s, which I will finish in March, 2021. Meanwhile, I have started writing for Italy Segreta, an Italian travel and lifestyle brand, and erratically serve as a studio assistant for artist and curator Alessandro Dandini de Sylva.
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