Tessie Murphy – Yes, it is as great as it sounds, but it’s not as easy….

As the semester is coming to a close and I’m scrambling to get all my work done that I put off over the last few weeks, (“Of course I’ll get gelato with you!” “A bike ride around Villa Borghese will only take an hour, right?”) it’s been hard to find time to balance school with my internship. I haven’t been on an assignment in a week and I’m starting to miss it; I’m not a workaholic, I just happened to have the best internship ever.

I work as an intern for The Rome Digest, a new website dedicated to finding and sharing the best food and drink in Rome in every genre. The wonderful ladies who run it are stunning food and wine professionals: all sommeliers, with primary business endeavors like a Rome wine school and food writing for the New York Times. The opportunity of getting to work with these woman has been completely eye-opening, as my professional interest has always been in food and wine culture. This internship has been one of those experiences that makes me wonder everyday what I did to deserve this, and that feeling makes me work even harder for them. My job as an intern includes going to cafés, bars, bakeries, beer or wine shops and sometimes restaurants, trying the food and writing about it. Yes, it is as great as it sounds but it’s not as easy.

Once a week one of my two bosses send me usually 3 venues to review for that week. I take that list and do some research on my own: how to get there, what to expect from the cuisine, what are the best selling or highest praised items? And if it’s a type of cuisine I know nothing about, I’ll do a little research on that too so I don’t walk in blind. I find some time in my schedule and plan my trip, usually including a friend in the experience for an alternative point of view. When I’m at the location, I try to talk to the manager or whoever seems most informed about the food and the business itself and ask their recommendations of what I should order. I order, buy, eat and enjoy. I have to admit that this is the best part of my job. As the website is dedicated only to the best of Rome, I’ve never been disappointed by something I’ve tried- and for that I consider myself incredibly lucky. Sitting at a table or standing at the bar, I take notes. I jot down some chicken scratch about the ambiance of the location, the quality of staff, the menu options, general price range, any information that the business provides about itself and finally my impressions of the complete experience. At the end I usually have about 2 small notebook pages full of notes, that I’ll use later to write the review.

The website isn’t geared towards tourists, but it is in English, so I never had to write in Italian. During my internship interview, it seemed important to them that I speak Italian, but I think they wanted to be sure that I would be comfortable talking to owners and staff of these places if they didn’t speak English, which they usually didn’t. The places I went were usually small, very un-touristy places not in the center, and I loved getting out of my American bubble to do what the locals do in areas I wasn’t familiar with. Sometimes getting out of the center was a little challenging, and a number of times I got lost but always eventually managed to find where I was going. Little experiences like these made me much more comfortable living in a huge city like Rome. The confidence that came from knowing that I could get around by myself in a foreign country under less-than-ideal circumstances (every day for Roman public transit is less than ideal) led me to trust myself and my instincts more and value my own sense of direction.

The reviews I write are short and concise, a quick guide to getting there and ordering what’s best. I try to express the personality of the place as well as the crowd that frequents it. I’ve been writing these reviews for a little over 3 months, and I can see my writing style improving. I’ve read every review on the site written by the “professionals” and I use that as a model to improve my own writing.

This internship has opened my eyes to the intricacies of the world of food service, as well and helped me grow as an individual. I loved getting out of my comfort zone to see new areas and try new and foreign things, and I feel like I have a more open mind and a honed sense of self-confidence I would not have achieved without my internship.