The more I travel, the more I love Rome. Although I appreciate all my weekend adventures, having the ability to call Rome “home” is unbelievable and I have never regretted my decision to participate in Temple University in Rome.
During fall break, the first city I visited was Lisbon. Even though the metropolitan area is Portugal’s capital and largest city, only 550,000 people live there. In comparison, 2.8 million residents live in Rome, Italy’s capital and largest comune. Once a thriving commercial center, Portugal’s declining international status manifests itself in Lisbon’s ghost-like feel. The streets are either empty or filled with tourists, and the historical sites are few and far between. The Belem Tower is a fantastic site where one can see where the metropolitan sprawl meets the ocean while eating a delicious flaky, egg custard treat, but in Rome, one can enjoy fifty different gelato flavors while walking through the seven hills on which Rome was built. Furthermore, even the most expensive church in the world (located in Lisbon), with its gilded enclaves, cannot compare to St. Peter’s Basilica. After the good weather has passed and all the sites have been seen, what is there left to do in Lisbon? While I enjoyed my weekend, the city, to me, does not hold enough life to last an entire semester.
The second city I traveled to on fall break was Madrid, which is the capital of Spain and the third most populous city in the European Union (behind Berlin and London). In 1561, King Philip II moved the capital of Spain from Toledo to Madrid. The result is a city without deep roots—literally and figuratively. Madrid has twelve metro lines and numerous underground parking facilities, leaving the city streets uncluttered and free of motor vehicles. On the other hand, in Rome, ancient ruins can be found everywhere. In fact, the enormous amount of ancient ruins has stunted the expansion of Rome’s metro system. As soon as the city starts digging, workers uncover more ruins and must stop construction. Furthermore, Madrid’s gardens, museums, and royal palace just cannot compare to the Coliseum or Trevi Fountains or Sistine Chapel. Madrid has to make much effort in promoting these tourist attractions, whereas people come to Rome just to marvel at the genius of the Ancient Romans. My experience in Madrid was a wonderful one filled with tapas, shopping, and jazz clubs, but the “tourist” attractions felt a bit contrived.
And now, this weekend, I was in Copenhagen, which is a beautiful city of neoclassicist, arts and crafts, modern, and post-modern architecture. The wide streets, friendly English-speaking Danes, and plentiful restaurant options enhanced my existing excitement to see my friend from Duke who is studying abroad there. Just like in Amsterdam, I could also see myself living in Copenhagen. The cold weather does not bother me too much—in fact, I like to bundle up in cozy sweaters; all Danish people speak English and do not like traditional Danish food, preferring other cuisines; the public transportation is wonderful, though all Danes bike and even feel comfortable leaving their bikes unlocked! However livable the city though, Copenhagen made me appreciate studying abroad in Rome even more. In Rome, I can walk into a church and see a Caravaggio, or walk through a piazza and sit by a fountain created by Bernini or a statue by Michelangelo. That just does not happen in Copenhagen.
Out of all the European cities to study abroad, I think Rome is perfect (Paris and London might be close seconds, but since I have not been to either, who knows?). In the land of art masters and wine and cheese, I have definitely become a little spoiled.