I won’t leave until I’ve done it all

Congratulate me! This senior just took her last two finals…in Rome.

Now that the courses are finished, it’s time to pack up the roots I’ve settled here. And despite the extra space I created a few months ago in my mini-Jacuzzi size luggage, I may or may not have had to actually sit on my bag just to zip it. I apparently bought too many souvenirs for “other” people. Leaving here is the true definition of bittersweet as I feel divided between a Seattle home and my new Roman home. Packing is not as big of a problem as it was a few months ago with the philosophy of “everything that is mine in the apartment goes in the suitcase.” It’s walking past my daily activities and realizing it is my last time doing so that puts the lump in my throat. It would’ve been nice to have had a few days to work through a list of last visits, but with only one free day in between finals and moving day, my schedule is booked. Instead I need to try to remember the last gelato, last cappuccino at my favorite café, last time in the other apartments of the program, etc. And my final thought that I leave you with: it’s a lot easier getting a giant suitcase up three flights of stairs than down.

….. But wait, there’s more.

Our professors have graced us with a post-finals present in the form of a trip to Florence and Venice during the actual last week of the course. First train stop: Firenze. In traditional art history fashion, we checked out the major churches of the region, the most well-known being the domed Cathedral of Florence/”the Duomo.”

We didn’t actually go into the church as a class because, as I later discovered on an independent trip, the marble-sheathed exterior is far more impressive. In Piazza della Signoria, we viewed an outside marble display, including a personal fav, The Rape of the Sabine. And, just to conclude day 1, the entire class walked to the Florence countryside of Ponte a Mensola for a fantastic family-style dinner. Being in the home city of Michelangelo, we viewed his sculptural works at the Medici Palace, the Academy with his famous David and unfinished works, and one of his Pietas at the Cathedral of Florence’s museum. Basically, it’s Michelangelo galore in Florence. To continue with the Florentine-dash, the class spent a couple of hours viewing Fra Angelico’s Medieval Christian wall frescoes, was amazed by the bedazzled miracle-working image of Or San Michele, climbed up the highest hill for the best view of Florence and some awesome church architecture, and was almost defeated by the gigantic Uffizi museum.

Despite this jam-packed schedule, I found no shortage of activities to fill my little free time with the Florence Gelato Festival going on the same weekend. On our final day in the city, I found the perfect way to make up for the greatest festival ever by climbing the 500+ steps to the top of the Duomo.
Next stop: Venice!
The canals of Venice are a complete cliché straight out of the movies. The city is romantic and beautiful, but a bit difficult to navigate when the frequent dead-ends could result in a possible drowning.

However, despite the spectacular scenery, it’s difficult to find affordable activities. I enjoyed the array of crazy-looking seafood dishes including black squid-ink pasta that dyes the whole mouth.

Most of the free time is filled with walking through alleys and bridges while exploring little souvenir shops. The class fieldtrips alone allowed us entrance into Venice’s top art sites including many private confraternities and the largely blasé art of the Academy. And (YAY!) we saw more Titian at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari with his Pesaro Madonna.

This appealed to my interests more than the famous mosaics of San Marco, which, while aesthetically astounding, was a disappointed due to the lack of free accessibility and overcrowding. Our final class, however, at the 16th century church of San Giorgio Maggiore united the old and the new with a Classical temple-based façade and a contemporary installation by Anish Kapoor for the Venice Biennale exhibition. Our poor professor was forced to compete his lecture on architect Andrea Palladio against Kapoor’s Ascension device that sent spiral smoke up the transept with a “holy light” simulation at the top of the church. Needless to say, he didn’t get far into his final lecture.

Our final class also meant it was time for good-byes to our professors and several classmates. This was harder than I anticipated. Rome’s too crowded for a group of 15 people to always be together, so it’s natural for smaller social groups to develop. As a whole, I loved my class, but I grew closer to some people more than others. However, the thought of not spending everyday with the same people that I had been with for 10 weeks was just a little bit heartbreaking. Some of us lingered in Venice or moved on to other European adventures. The remaining, including me, hopped back onto a train for Rome to prepare for our airplane home the next day.

It’s weird being in Rome like a tourist for even one night when you have been trying to assimilate for ten weeks. We left Termini Station with our luggage, took a cab to an unknown location, and slept in a hotel. Our favorite restaurants proved too far for us exhausted travelers, so we took a shot in the dark at a recommended restaurant and ended up concluding our final night in Rome with some fantastic food and one last gelato.

Homesickness varied with every student in the program. Some of us have been aching for home for weeks. And the rest of us, including yours truly, made Rome a new home and will be going to the airport kicking and screaming like a child’s tantrum.