While everyone from Temple was at the Amalfi Coast and everyone from Duke was at Oktoberfest this weekend, I enjoyed Rome in the company of my three best friends from Duke. However, right before they arrived, I was ambling through the cobbled streets of Rome by myself on Friday afternoon when it just hit me. I love Rome. This moment is neither wholly unfamiliar nor familiar; yet every time it happens, I realize with sadness the amount of nostalgia I will feel once I leave. The Moment occurred despite sweating through my t-shirt from the heat and humidity, despite the Fiats and Smartcars whirring around me, and despite the crowd of weekend travelers. My senses were heightened to the surroundings yet I still felt a lofty transcendence as I came to the realization that I did not care about those annoyances anymore. I was so happy after that moment; it put me in just the right mood to show my friends around the city.
One friend was arriving Friday evening, while the other Friday around 1 am. As soon as the first one arrived, we prepared to meet up with my friend Vittorio (remember him? I first mentioned him in this entry) for a night out to see the “other” side of Rome. He took us to the Acrobax Project, which is a festival that combines different artistic expressions, including art installations, dance performances, and electronic music. The project was born out of an anti-fascist political movement towards freedom of expression and is now held twice a month in abandoned buildings around the city. These nomadic artists and musicians congregate in empty structures and there, collaborate and share in creative expression. In the same way that Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin lived and worked together in 1888 Provence, France to begin a new community of artists, the Acrobax Project is van Gogh and Gauguin’s modern-day counterpart.
This weekend’s Acrobax took place in a building called “Cinodromo,” which means greyhound. The elliptically shaped structure originally housed dog race competitions, but now serves as a communal house for anyone to live in and enjoy. When I first entered the Cinodromo, I feel like stepped into a whole new world. It makes sense that an alternative culture exists in a city to which artists of all types flock; yet, one would never imagine it exists walking about the city, which is bursting with ancient ruins. I met many of Vittorio’s friends…all with varying levels of English proficiency. I loved practicing my Italian, but it soon became humorously apparent that I had not yet gotten to past tense in my Italian classes. His friends seemed like all could be from college or work, as is the usual case in America, but they come from all different stages of his life. One girl he has known since elementary school. Another guy from high school. Other friends of friends; yet, there is no apparent distance in their interaction because of this one-degree of separation. The group dynamic I experienced that night was one of close intimacy; everyone was close to everyone and enjoyed everyone’s company. This was a welcome surprise, especially to me from my position as a foreigner, but also because in America we segregate different friend groups (college, high school, family friends, etc.) and are not necessarily on close terms with friends of friends. I want to bring this kind of amicability back to America!