Buongiorno from Roma! After months of anticipation, days of packing and preparation, and hours of travel, I arrived at the Fiumicino Airport. I got my passport stamped, put way too much thought into saying “Grazie!” to the customs officer, found my luggage, and met Gianni from the Temple Rome Staff. He arranged a shuttle to the Residence Medaglie d’Oro, where I will be staying.
I expected to notice a lot of differences from the United States during the ride, and I did: drivers completely disregard any lane lines that may exist (to the extent that one car could be perpendicular to the next), bikes swerve in and out and in between and on the wrong side of the median with extensive grace, cars do not slow down for pedestrians (in fact, the local Italians can be distinguished as those who continue to take their time crossing the street when drivers are accelerating towards them), and the metric system can be found on street signs, at gas stations, and on our driver’s odometer – phew, that wasn’t miles per hour. Some of the streets are cobblestone, which adds a whole new dimension to the unpredictable left and right swerves. And I loved every minute of it. There are similarities as well, such as the American music streaming from the radio, a McDonald’s every so often, billboards advertising Disney’s Maleficent, and of course, the indistinguishable (and yet very distinguishable) grunts made by the taxi driver as he continued en route to the Residence. I was overwhelmed, but anyone in my sleep-deprived state could have recognized the Colosseum passing by, and that’s when I knew I was here.
I got checked into my room, and I was the first one here, so I quickly unpacked, claimed the top bunk in our quaint bedroom for three, and took a shower – I blame my jet lag for any difficulties that may or may not have occurred in there. I tried to take a nap before my roommates showed up – having flown in at 8:30am, I was unsure of how long I could go before crashing, but I felt like I was putting myself in timeout because I just wanted to go outside and play. I eventually wandered outside of the Residence and ran into a group of Temple students who had just flown in from Philly. I helped them find their rooms, and I had to chuckle at the 5-person-capacity sign on the elevator…we could barely fit 2 with luggage. I met my roommates, Jessica and April, and after they unpacked, April and I set out to get groceries. We stumbled into a store called Despar where we found cereal, fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, pasta, sauce, and milk. The milk was very much not labeled with anything of meaning to us, but the nutritionist in me checked the fat content on all of the European nutrition labels, and we found the closest to skim that way. The other foods we bought were recognizable enough, they didn’t seem expensive, and to add to our success, we found our way back to the room!
After some lunch, we were ready for another adventure. We walked the 45 minutes or so to the Temple Rome campus, over the Tiber River (but not through the woods) and then continued on to the Piazza del Popolo. Beautiful buildings, an obelisk, and amazing views in every direction, but I found myself wishing I knew some of the history, or at least the names of the things I was looking at. I later learned that it is safe to assume that most buildings are churches. We walked up a hill for an even more incredible view, and after stopping for some pictures and wandering through a row of tents where people were selling their wares, we walked into the Borghese gardens. Beautiful trees and plants and a fountain where we were blessed with the good luck of Saint Maria. Kind of.
We found our way back to the building housing Temple Rome’s classrooms and art studios for a pizza party with the others study abroad students. Pizza with every topping imaginable, all laid out on a table before me – yes, I really am here. I easily downed four slices, one with a meat similar to kielbasa, one with mushrooms, one covered with very thinly sliced ham, and one with thinly sliced and seasoned potatoes (my personal favorite). I walked home with a full belly and climbed (literally) into bed.
Today, after a brief orientation, we were split into small groups for a walking tour of the area around Temple Rome. My group was led by one of Temple’s amazing Italian professors, who took us to one of her favorite delis for lunch and taught us how to order sandwiches in a mixture of Italian and hand gestures. She also took us through the Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza de Spagna to see the Spanish steps before returning to campus.
On our walk home, I decided to start a Parking Job of the Week Award and a Gelati Flavor of the Week Award…so you’ve got that to look forward to. You’re welcome.