After a quick three hour flight, I safely completed my first trip within Europe from London to Rome. Even though I still hadn’t arrived in my home city for the semester, I was incredibly excited to be in Italy, finally getting the chance to immerse myself into the rich and unique Italian culture. I surprisingly felt a bit intimated stepping out into the city and seeing signs written solely in Italian, hearing those around me speak in foreign languages, and feeling completely lost the minute my hotel was out of sight. The language barrier proved to be a bit of challenge from day one, but through gestures and assistance from others, my friends and I were able to communicate with the locals. Interacting with the locals was an incredible experience that taught me about the universal hand motions that almost anyone from any culture can recognize. Whether it was ordering pizza or asking for directions to Vatican City, we were able to get an answer to every question we had. By attempting to speak any sort of Italian or even simply asking the locals if they spoke English before diving straight into a conversation, it proved we were attempting to assimilate and made the citizens of Rome much more willing to help us!
My program hosted a week-long orientation that consisted of academic and safety meetings in the morning, followed by guided tours throughout various cities in the afternoons. Each day we traveled through the cobblestone streets that filled the entire city, dodging cars and motorcycles that zipped through Rome’s narrow roads. We walked upwards of ten miles every single day, leaving us exhausted and ready to refuel with the large bowls of delicious pasta that awaited us each night at dinner time.
On our first day, we visited the “Spanish Steps” and the Trevi Fountain. Our tour guide informed us that the Spanish Steps are only named so because they are located next to the Spanish embassy in Italy. The Trevi Fountain was absolutely breathtaking – its marvelous statues and crystal blue water were mesmerizing, and I believe the hundreds of other tourists I jostled with to get a picture throwing a coin in the fountain would agree.
In the middle of the week, we toured all of Vatican City, including the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The museum was filled with beautiful works of art by many famous artists, and the Sistine Chapel was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I was unable to snap a photograph of its ceiling due to incredibly strict laws banning any sort of photography and strong supervision by the Italian police enforcing the ban. Our tour guide informed us that in the 1980s the Italian government wanted to restore the paintings of the Sistine Chapel but did not have the money to do so, so it sold the rights of all of the artwork inside to the Japanese in exchange for completion the restoration. I wasn’t even allowed to take photos of postcards of the ceiling located in the gift shop! After seeing the chapel, two friends and I made the precarious ascension to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica and watched the sun set over the entire city of Rome, a view I know I will never forget.
Our final tour of the week brought us to the Colosseum, an incredible feat and beautiful landmark located just blocks from our hotel. Just being inside and knowing the history and events that took place in the exact spots we were standing in was absolutely remarkable, and something I can gladly say I can cross off my bucket list.
Well, that seems to sum it all up for my orientation week in Rome. Next time you hear from me, I will finally have arrived in my official home for the semester – Florence. Ciao for now!