This post begins my second journey of study abroad: Rome. Ever since I could remember, Rome was always my # 1 travel destination. In fact, I recently found a notebook from grade school that had questions about what we wanted to do after graduation. My answer was, “Go to college, become an artist, and go to Rome” Well, at least I am definitely fulfilling the first and last ones! The point is: Going to Rome always was my dream, which I guess makes this semester a dream come true.
I landed in Rome on January 14, and had a really enjoyable flight. I did the same as I did with Greece: Philly to London, London to Rome. I even ran into one of my high school friends on the Philly to London flight, small world! When I was flying into the Rome airport, I was shocked to see a completely different landscape than anything I have seen before. As opposed to Athens, my first impression was: GREEN. Everything was so green, with tall branchless trees that lined the shore. We flew over little villages with pastel colored houses, and finally landed in Fiumucino Airport. I didn’t actually get to see the city for a little while. I booked my flight a day early, so I had to stay the night by myself in a hotel outside of the city near the university. The school that I am studying at is through Loyola University Chicago, called the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC). It is situated in a wealthy suburb north of the city called Monte Mario, about a 20 minute bus ride from Rome. SO, I actually spent my first hours in Italy sleeping! I slept the whole day and night in the hotel, checked out, and went to my campus the next morning. When I arrived at JFRC, I was really impressed. It is a very small but quaint campus, with a very impressive cafeteria and library. After being in an apartment in Athens, I forgot how much I like actual campuses. Orientation lasted for a while, however I felt very much at home because it reminded me of Holy Cross: small campus feel, lots of great resources, and helpful student life assistants. The day was full of meetings, but then after 7 pm…the night was ours. Of course, this means finally venturing into Rome!
After all of the traveling I have done this year, I have realized something: It is oftentimes very hard to compromise something that you have been picturing in your head from dreaming so much with the actual thing when it is in front of you. I am the first to admit this. When on my bus into Rome for the first time, I was actually more nervous than excited, nervous that Rome wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Well, when I actually arrived in the city center, all of these fears subsided behind both excitement and the reality that we got completely lost! I will never forget my first night in Rome. We wandered across the Tiber River, saw the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, and then got completely lost and stumbled upon…the Pantheon. The Pantheon!! I have dreamed about this building, and the moment when I so casually stumbled upon it while lost was when it hit me that I am actually here…a student living here, not just a tourist on a two day guided tour. After staring at the building for a while, we got gelato and then ventured to the Trevi Fountain, where I threw a 10 cent euro coin in. As I went back to campus that night, I realized that I also had this compromise of expectations and reality in Athens too, and that is completely normal. I became happier as I realized that the thing that makes a place better than what you can ever imagine is formed by the personal connections you make with it. I realized this in Athens, and I can not wait to do it with Rome.
To describe Rome as beautiful is an understatement. It is a word that just doesn’t do it justice. The city itself is a piece of art. The city is carved with grand piazzas with gorgeous marble fountains in the center, surrounded by narrow side streets with gelaterias and pizzerias sprinkled throughout. The streets are cobble stone, the lampposts are quaint, and the horizon always contains a famous ancient site. On top of this, the city is absolutely gorgeous at night. Every monument is lit up, the piazzas are bustling with people, and the Vatican dome is always a gleaming point of reference. Rome is also a vastly different city than anything else I have seen so far. Based on my experience so far, Rome actually isn’t that big of a city, especially not compared to Athens. The sites are all roughly in walking distance, and the colors of the city as much more varied. The small buildings are sun-washed pastel, the churches and monuments are white and brown, the greenery is the deepest hue of green I have seen; all against a beautiful light blue backdrop when it is a clear day.
My adventures in Rome culminated that week with a scavenger hunt in the city organized by the school. It forced us to all of the sites that I, as an eager tourist, have been dying to go to. We spent the whole night running around the city, jumping from piazza to piazza, and finally ending up at the Colosseum. The night ended with my first taste of legitimate Italian pizza. All of the running around was worth it however, because my team won! So, the first week was a big success. Here are a a few pictures from the scavenger hunt in Rome to get an introductory taste of my new home in Roma.