A Whirlwind of a Welcome

Temple of Saturn - ForumCiao a tutti! My name is Devyn Patmore, and I am currently in Rome, Italy, spending five weeks unearthing the city and writing poetry inspired by my finds with the UW Creative Writing department program. I’ve only been here since last Wednesday, the 19th, but already I can say I have fallen in love with the Eternal City!

The day of arrival was tumultuous emotionally. As I realized there was no turning back – I’d really left my family and friends for a month long study in a place where most speak only Italian! – my flight over the Atlantic for the first time was nerve-wracking, but also so thrilling! As soon as we landed in Rome, me and a few other girls from the plane hit the ground running and got a cab to the UW Rome Center, located in a building known as the Palazzo Pio on the corner of the famous market square, Campo dei Fiori. After walking past the large green doors that would soon be known to me as the entrance to my nightly classroom sessions, we got our housing assignments and set off for a long and decidedly HOT trek to our apartments, traveling across the Ponte Sisto Bridge with our luggage in tow. While the walk is not nearly as tiring without suitcases, my apartment is in Trastevere, a picturesque part of Rome an insanely lively nightlife. The apartment, though adorable, has become a place I send very little time in, as my four roommates and I are virtually always out in the city (unless we are sleeping from exhaustion during the two hour Siesta period – a time of day where virtually all of Rome shuts down to rest and escape the heat!).

My daily schedule is basically this: program participants meet at a predetermined spot in Rome at around 9am, and spend the next few hours of the day exploring that part of the city and the historical landmarks or artwork there, all while jotting down insightful observations and poetic phrases. Afterwards, the larger group splits up into smaller subgroups to go find lunch, pick up some gelato, possibly hit up some shops, and definitely take a powernap. We join together again at 5pm at the UW Rome Center for cohorts, an hour long session where we share and unpack what we wrote in the morning and how to interpret our findings with our small groups of 10 people each. The rest of the evening is either filled with student, teacher, or guest speaker talks, another exploration around the city, or a free night to wine and dine (and study, of course).

Some of the places we have explored include Capitoline Hill and its Museums, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, Pincian Hill, Santa Maria del Popolo, St. Peter’s, Janiculum Hill, and various locations along the Tiber River. My favorite spots have been where I have unexpectedly discovered secret spaces. For example, in one of the churches we explored in last week, an elderly Italian woman offered to show me and two other girls the old living quarters of St. Louis, which ended up being a private, rooftop tour with amazing views of Rome, as well as being able to see more beautiful art and decorated rooms. Another fun place to explore is right next to the Rome Center. Through a little archway takes you down an alley with a rounded wall – the same wall that held up the Theatre of Pompey, the place where Julius Caesar lived, and notably, died. But I’ve also enjoyed the more traditional, leisurely spots. On Sunday, some of us ventured to the Santa Marianella beach, about a half hour’s train ride from Rome’s Termini station for a fun, sun-filled day off. I’ve also been one of the first in the class to present a Site Talk. As someone who gets anxious at the sound of public and speaking in the same sentence, I was nervous to say the least, but my presentation on the aforementioned Campo de Fiori made me feel more confident about learning and sharing my growing knowledge of Rome. It also made me excited to think of how much new, exciting information and experiences I will have to remember the city by!

Though I certainly had some expectations for Rome – it would be hot, it would be fun but overwhelming, and it would be beautiful – there have been quite a few things that have taken me by surprise. The first thing I noticed was how insanely fast and small the cars are! The cobblestone streets of Rome and the surrounding area were simply not made for driving cars, and thus tiny Fiats and Vespas line the roads, driving quickly with no sense of lane or right of way, and parking at any spot convenient. You definitely have to look out for your life every time you cross the street! Secondly, I’m intrigued by the amount of graffiti I have found throughout Rome – or rather, the amount of creative, inspiring graffiti discovered in the most random places. From gorgeous murals to statement Italian phrases, to copies of famous works (like Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeerto) or the more organized, approved panels containing “Before I Die…” to-do lists, the city’s buildings are a sight to see for more than just their architectural and historical value. Finally, even though I knew the city would be amazing, I still managed to underestimate its beauty. It’s hard to describe Rome in a way that fully gives it justice. Even when looking back at pictures I have taken, or sharing stories with my family on Skype, there are aspects of the city that you can’t accurately feel or understand without being here. The sheer scale of the buildings, the immense history, the amount of people and lively noise, the sweat on your nose and the blisters on your feet – it can be overwhelming, but also so inspiring as a writer and explorer! It’s been a pleasure already to peel back the layers of time and culture to discover more and more every day.

Hope you enjoyed this introduction post, and that you join me on my journey through Rome! I will be posting more shorter, specific posts in the weeks to come. Arrivederci!