From Rome…to Home?
It is so strangely wonderful to be writing this blog post from the comfort of my own bed, in my own room, in my own house! Yes, I have already returned from my five-week venture in Rome, Italy. In the hectic and fun blur of the last couple weeks of the program, I had absolutely no time to stop and reflect on my experiences, but in this post I’m going to highlight what I got up to in my final days in Roma. The week of July 8th, our last full week of school, was scheduled with several more church and museum visits. I don’t believe I’ve visited as many museums or churches in my whole life as I did in these five weeks in Rome, but I have to say, I feel so much more cultured for doing so! It is easy to get a bit jaded after seeing countless frescos, statues, cased up artifacts, but reminding myself of the rich history and cultural significance of such objects always made me appreciate how fortunate I was to see these wonders. That week, we visited the Galleria Borghese, which was my favorite museum of the entire trip. Located in the glorious Villa Borghese gardens, a large and peaceful public park, this museum featured some of the most iconic pieces of painting and sculpture in art history. As someone with an interest in Greek and Roman mythology, it was amazing to take a step away from purely Christian imagery and explore this intricate and deep part of Ancient Roman life – pagan mythology. The Apollo and Daphne room captivated several members in our program, including myself, and proved inspiring to our daily poetry pitches.
The most breathtaking views came the following day on our group field trip to Tivoli, Italy, where we toured Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este! First, Hadrian’s Villa was a place of refuge and celebration of the travels and worldliness of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Walking in the remains of the various palaces, theatres, and other quarters required us to use our imaginations to complete the scene. Knowing how beautiful this location is now, it’s hard to envision how overwhelmingly regal and lovely it would have been in it’s full glory. I enjoyed how easy it was to seclude yourself within the massive landscape. At one point, I found a hole in a large wall on a hill to sit in and peer over a deserted courtyard. This moment of quiet and stillness was one to be treasured on a study abroad trip, when 30-some other people surround you at all hours of the day. It was also wonderful to see so much greenery and plant life, a sweet reminder of the Pacific Northwest that is harder to find in cities of brick and cobble like Rome!
After a quick lunch, our group headed to Villa d’Este, which is known for it’s expansive garden landscapes and countless fountains and grottos. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s rich art, architecture, and significance to Renaissance splendor. Arguably any site or object you gaze upon in Italy can be said to have some beauty in it, and Rome certainly has no shortage of beautiful scenery. However, I was truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the Villa d’Este. The sounds of flowing water, the large strips of land with nothing but art and gardens, and again, the rich shades of green and brown were comforting and inviting. It took us several hours to explore all of the grounds, and even then I felt like there was more to explore. It was one site that was more difficult to leave.
Our last weekend abroad was a mixture of stress and intense relief. Saturday the 13th was the day every student had to share his or her personal talk, “A Rome of Our Own Devising.” In addition, I had my chapter talk on Christopher Hibbert’s Biography of Rome. However, once those talks were completed Saturday morning, we had the rest of the weekend to relax in Rome with the bulk of the program’s requirements under our belts. After a fun night out with most of our class Saturday night, we broke off into smaller groups for Sunday afternoon. I decided to spend the day at a local pool with a few other girls, as we didn’t have the energy to venture to the beach for a third time. Our poolside experience was interesting, to say the least! We were not aware of the fact that swimming caps are absolutely required when swimming in public pools! It was hilarious that we had to purchase our swim caps, all while a rogue duck swam around the pool for the entire five hours we were there. There was also an exercise class with standing bikes in the water, and a boy band practicing their dance moves at a restaurant nearby. Needless to say, it was an amusingly bizarre way to spend my last weekend in a city that always leaves me asking questions – in a good way!
Monday, July 15th, we finally visited the Coliseum! I am so glad that we saved this iconic stop for one of our final days in Rome, and I loved having a smaller, more exclusive tour of the site! We were fortunate enough to be able to explore both the underground portion of the Coliseum as well as the uppermost portion, which most tour groups do not get to experience! The views from the top of the Coliseum over the Arch of Constantine, the Palatine, and the Forum were breathtaking! It was unbelievable to realize how much violent and extraordinary history we were standing above, below, and in-between at any given moment.
Tuesday was our class performance of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on the Tiber River, and Wednesday took us to the Protestant Cemetery, where several famous writers and artists are buried, including John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. As I shared in one of my earlier posts, I enjoyed visiting the Keats-Shelley house – John Keats’ dying place – and to be able to literally follow him to his grave was a humbling experience. I have a lot of appreciation for his short life and his writing (although I do resent him for writing the 50-line masterpiece, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” as we had to recite it from memory!). It was also a poignant place to visit on our last day of the program, as all of us were saying goodbye in a different way – to each other, and to Rome, but hopefully only temporary partings for both. Further, after the fun and emotional final banquet that evening, me and a few other girls took a midnight trip to the Trevi Fountain. I had never had the opportunity to go in the daytime, but I am so glad to have gone at night! There were no crowds and the lighting was beautiful. It was a great way to spend my last hours in Rome.
While leaving Rome was bittersweet, returning home has been a welcome event. Although I am still recovering from my jet lag, I have been able to ponder on my wonderful Roman Holiday, and plan on sharing a short reflective post on the whole experience in a couple days. Thanks so much for joining me on my journey in Rome. Despite it being cliché, I have to admit that my time in Italy has been everything I could have wished for in a study abroad experience, and so, so much more. Thanks again for reading, ciao for now!