Photo: Students enjoying an authentic, multiple-course meal in the beautiful Titignano castle after the Todi excursion
Considering my semester in Rome is my second senior semester at Temple University, I did not imagine I would have the opportunity to feel like a freshman again. Arriving in Rome, however, I regressed to not knowing anyone and initiating conversations by asking names, hometowns, and majors. Many students were running from apartment to apartment, eager to meet the classmates with whom they’ll be spending the next six weeks. It is especially refreshing that everyone here is in the same boat and knows that friendliness is an important trait for adjusting to a new environment. Shortly after arriving, students were scrambling around with new friends to find pizzerias, gelaterias, or the market. What a relief it was to learn how accessible everything is from our residence! Carrefour, the local supermarket, is only a few blocks away and it seemed to be temporarily taken over by Temple students the first day as we filled our carts with ripe produce, freshly baked bread, and other delicacies. Should any of our needs be out of walking distance, we are also conveniently close to the Cipro Metro stop.
Whereas students may have been accustomed to dashing across the streets of Temple’s Main Philadelphia campus as they so please, it is important to be alert as a pedestrian in Rome. Drivers seem to be on a mission and are unlikely to stop even at a crosswalk unless you establish eye contact with them in order to assert that do indeed intend to cross the street. It was noticeable almost immediately, however, that the smart cars just may be the most quickly paced aspect of Italian culture. Whereas the cars and mopeds zoom through the hectic streets speedily, I found my strolls through the Italian streets to be extremely relaxing. Even in a jetlagged state, it was pleasant to venture from the welcoming pizza party (a delicious occasion) to the Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain. It did not seem at all a chore to walk back the residence after these destinations. Perhaps I am only claiming this because I have the most supportive and comfortable walking sandals I have ever owned, but the overwhelmingly beautiful surroundings more than offset the distance we walk daily.
Still more leisurely than my strolls have been my Italian dining experiences. Even though my picky vegetarian and limited dairy ways have excluded me from many of the local favorites, the dining atmospheres are rejuvenating enough! The other night, a new friend and I enjoyed a six course meal at a restaurant we were told is a favorite for locals. Despite not speaking Italian and the owners not speaking English, we were able to navigate smoothly through the three hour meal of blue cheese and spinach pizza, meats, fried pineapple and mashed potatoes, pasta, tiramisu… the list goes on! This meal was a great practice round for the multiple course meal all of the students in the program enjoyed at the beautiful Titignano castle on the Todi excursion the next day. It was a day of fine dining, breathtaking scenery, and good company for all and as Dean Strommen toasted to the next six weeks, I was truly struck by the reality of the astounding journey on which I have embarked.