Upon arriving in Rome, I quickly picked up on the fact that Italians like to out-ciao each other. It’s almost like they’re so excited to see each other that one ciao is never enough.
My name is Caroline LeBranti, and I’m a junior at Fordham University studying business and graphic design. Studying abroad in Rome is the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for as long as I can remember… or at least since 2003 (which may or may not coincide with the premiere of the Lizzie McGuire Movie). My Italian heritage, my inclination to be a food snob, and my passion for art and culture all contributed to this decision of a lifetime.
These past eight days have been a whirlwind of excitement, exhaustion, eagerness, confusion, filthiness, and pure bliss. From getting lost for hours and finally stumbling on the perfect view of the city above the Piazza del Poppolo, to having to take freezing cold showers due to a hot water shortage at the Residence, my short time in Italy thus far has been a series of triumphs and minor defeats. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know that my passionate affair with Roma is still in its “honeymoon phase,” but I am confident in saying that the city’s uneven cobblestone roads and romantic culture have had me intoxicated since day one.
Highlights from the week would include almost every second of every day, but I’ll try to name a few:
On my first day in Rome I was wondering around the city with some of my new friends after the kick off pizza party at Temple. We were walking aimlessly, without any maps or directions, and all of a sudden we found ourselves staring out at the city from one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen. As a person who always likes to have a plan, it felt so refreshing to lose my way for a bit and discover something so incredible. That moment will definitely be ingrained in my mind for quite some time.
One of my favorite nights so far was exploring the Trastevere neighborhood and discovering the River Walk along the Tiber. The River Walk is similar to your classic American street fair, except it’s along one of the most historic rivers in the world and it possesses this extravagant, Italian charm that you just don’t get back in the states. For about a mile stretch there are food stands, games, live music, booths selling everything from jewelry to hermit crabs, and pop up restaurants with trendy wicker furniture and sweeping white drapes everywhere. I even found a little piece of home in one of the clothing booths- a Sox jersey!
The best decision I’ve made thus far was to venture to Sperlonga for the day this past Saturday. Sperlonga is a beach town about an hour and a half outside of Rome, where most Romans flock to get away from the hot city in the summer. When the bus pulled up to the stop right across from the beach, none of us could keep our cool because of the gorgeous views and crystal clear, turquoise water. The day was spent lounging in the sun, shooing away locals trying to sell us Pashmina scarves and blow up floaties, taking millions of pictures with our waterproof cameras, eating pizza and gelato, and just taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Another extremely memorable day was our last day of orientation. Usually when one thinks about a school orientation they think awkward icebreaker games and cookouts with burgers and hot dogs. That’s not really how Temple Rome rolls. Instead, we loaded two coach buses at 8 am and drove to the Italian countryside region of Umbria. We first stopped in Todi, which is a quaint little village filled with gothic architecture, delicious cafes, and trendy boutiques. I probably took 500 pictures in the matter of two hours, but not even my high tech, brand new Canon could capture its beauty. We then loaded back on the bus and drove up a windy road to Titignano, a smaller village outside of Todi, for a fourteen-course meal in a grand estate. I am still waiting to wake up from this dream/exit out of this food coma.
Lastly, meeting my wonderful, quirky roommates and friends have made this enchanting experience all the more magical. One of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom, once noted, “But scenery without solace is meaningless.” Getting to experience the beauty of this foreign place with such enthusiastic and thoughtful people is something I’m extremely grateful for.
As a final remark, I’m already starting to plan my life as an expatriate (just kidding, Mom!…kinda). We’ll see how the next three months go, but if it’s anything like this past week, Arrivederci, America! Roma is the one for me.