Upon my arrival in Rome I was rather depressed, a depression that went beyond homesickness and turned my first month and a half here into something equal to a personal Hell. For this, lack of time and an inspiration to congregate my ideas, I found myself unable to write. I was paralyzed and in such a moment of unhappiness, I isolated myself further. It was not something I had intended to do as I prepared for my studies a year ago, but circumstance had it that I was emotionally unstable and about to fly across the ocean to a new world and strange land. I believed that I would be better once I got here, but the falsities I tried to plant in my mind did not sprout, as I wasted my time being unhappy, alone and hidden away. I would like to apologize for not holding to my promises for these past few months and would like to make up for it now that I am far better than I was when I arrived. I am hopeful when I look back at this experience that I will recognize the emotional toils I endured for several months here shaped me as a person along with my other more cultural and physical experiences.
Now, I will begin my story:
Getting to Italy was very near a piece of cake despite waiting quite a few hours to clear up a problem with the plane flying internationally; I arrived near 11am the 26 of August and soon came to acquaintance with the Roman heat and sun. A student from AUR picked me up at the airport and we all piled our luggage into a large Mercedes van, my first time in a Mercedes, might I add; as well, it my first lick of Italian driving, which is absolutely bonkers (cellphone laws are null and our driver was on the phone the entire time.) The Rome I began to see was not the same as the one I had just seen on the plane: as we were landing, I saw a vast countryside with terracotta-roofed houses that each had cultivated strips of land and I slightly wept to myself as I was enchanted to see such a postcard view. Unfortunately, that did not last and we came upon the bustling city as each of us got separated like children from their parents on their first day of elementary school. I was the first in my apartment that was to hold six persons total and another AUR student showed me how to operate everything. The doors were wide open, no screens except the serrande, nothing to keep the nature and the city out, I was in Rome. It was probably about ninety degrees and early afternoon when another Salve student arrived; at this point, we were both starving and went to get pizza from the shop below our apartment, our first taste of Italian ready-to-go pizza; it was spectacular given our voracious appetites. Later, we attempted to find our new school and got completely lost along the way, making a good excuse for me to have my first ever taste of gelato. I ordered frutti di Bosco (mixed berries) and tried to freshen up on my Italian skills while asking for directions to our school. Finally, we arrived but missed the tour that was being given, but we did run into some workers from AUR who told us to go to Fontana dell’Aqua Paola, an overlooking sight of the city. As we got there, the sun was setting, making a perfect opportunity to take some photographs.
The next few days were filled with running around and trying to buy all of the essentials- food? Yes, please! Our other roommates arrived over that span as well and we tried to help them to adjust as quickly as we could. The second night, we went out for dinner for the first time. We went to what is now my favorite restaurant in Trastevere, the historic section of Rome where we live, called L’Arco di San Callisto and got their renowned dish, caccio e pepe, a pasta with cheeses and pepper. The following day was another time that was very busy but I had time to visit a church where St. Peter was allegedly crucified. The next day, I went out with my roommates, shopping on Via del Corso and in search of the Trevi Fountain. We got lost along the way, only to find the fountain encased in a plastic barrier and drained, a disappointing sight; to this day, it is covered over even more and we will probably not see it working before we leave. That is the nature of the beast, though, when you travel to such a historic city, monuments are guaranteed to be covered wherever you turn. Sunday, our last day of freedom, we went to the beach. The sand was black, staining and hot, yet soft, unlike anything I had ever witnessed before. The water, although extremely salty, was refreshing after almost a whole week of ninety degree weather.
The first week of classes wasn’t anything spectacular although they definitely got better; in that week, I had my first Italian cappuccino and witnessed what it is like when it rains in Rome (though it has not rained often during the daytime since I have been here). I also took the tram in the morning for the first time, packed by children, teenagers and adults all going to their jobs and school, sometimes you cannot even get in because it is so full. Of course, I also got lost a few times that week, taking wrong busses and what have you. The next weekend, I took a trip to the Gardens of Ninfa in Latina with my roommates. We took the train (successfully) and waited for a shuttle from the small, deserted train station to the gardens. It began to rain as we approached, getting closer and closer to this large silhouette of a mountain. I was quite intrigued and obsessed more with the village atop the mountain flanking the gardens than I was with the gardens themselves. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, the rolling thunder in the distance, nearby, these phantom hills with a little village teetering on the hillside. The next week was filled with classes and I ended off my week by going to Fashion’s Night Out on Via del Corso with my roommate where we danced in the street with joy. That was a moment I never foresaw and do not believe could happen again on a normal day.
At the beginning of October, I took a school trip to Mt. Vesuvius, Capri, Pompeii and Napoli. Being near the water is exactly what I needed, it made me feel as if I was right back at Salve, the lapping of the waves against the rocks greeted me like an old friend, with excitement and a warm embrace. Everything was right in the moment I made eye contact with its sparkling inundations, and so too did my eyes sparkle. Our first stop, though, was Mt. Vesuvius where we rode up the winding pathways in our tour bus. At times, cars were coming down from the summit, not budging, not backing up in order to let our larger vehicle by, the next moment I know we are rolling backwards so they can pass. If my heart didn’t beat irregularly the entire ride up the side of the mountain face, I do not know what occurred; because I was too busy trying to control my anxiety. The ability of our driver was extraordinary as he got us both to the top and bottom safely regardless of how narrow and sharp the turns were to reach the summit. After such a terrifying ride, we had a thirty minute hike up to the top of the volcano itself and was not as challenging as expected aside from the slippery gravel. Viewing the city below, I enjoyed a lunch I had packed for myself and attempted to explore a little bit although we did not have much time until we were supposed to come back down and meet our bus again. Unfortunately, I did slip a few times on the way down and that gave me a few more good scares and laughs.
Capri was unrealistically beautiful and going there was the greatest remedy for my sadness. I took a boat tour around the island and snapped many photos of its gorgeous cavernous areas. Unfortunately, the famous blue grotto was closed because the tides were too high, but I did not let that dampen my mood too much. I took the funicular up to the top part of Capri called Anacapri where I explored and found a wonderful early eighteenth century church called St. Michele Arcangelo that had a splendid floor. Never in my life have I encountered such a floor in a church, it was ceramic tiles glazed and assembled to form a picture. Not only that, the shape of the church itself was rather peculiar because it was octagonal like a baptistery but also had an additional portion to it that acted as a nave of sorts. It was something out of a storybook and made me wonder what worship was like in the space, how many worshippers would have attended mass there, and how easily the clergymen traveled about the space. I will stop boring you with my art historical talk for now. After exploring, I purchased myself some handmade sandals that you can find specialty shops for around the island and almost missed my ferry back home. In a rush, my friend and I took a roofless taxi from Anacapri down to Capri and just made our ride back to Sorrento. Although we were nervous about being late, we had a great time racing down the mountain with the wind in our hair.
Our last day of the trip, we drove to Pompeii and took a guided tour around the ruins. This was not my favorite part of the trip and I wished that we had more time to go around by ourselves as I had wanted to see some things. After that, we stopped in Napoli for pizza before our long ride back to Rome. The pizza was much better there and tasted fresh and crispy, whereas in Rome the pizza is generally thicker. Because we had some free time and museum entrance fees were free, we went into Palazzo Reale and witnessed a luxurious palace of the Bourbons which I very much enjoyed for the ceiling decorations and tapestries that hung on its walls. I was nervous to go to Napoli, I will admit, but I would definitely go back if I could.
Between now and then, I have not traveled outside of Rome but I will post another piece that speaks about smaller excursions in Rome and other monuments I have visited. Currently, I am preparing for departure to Greece that takes place tomorrow morning where I will be visiting Santorini, Thessaloniki, Heraklion and Athens. I am very excited to finally go to Greece, a location I have strived and dreamed of visiting ever since I truly fell in love with Art History freshman year of college.
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