Wildly enough, I’ve been living in Rome for almost a month. That realization produces a conflicting feeling. On the one hand, I feel accustomed to things, like how to order a cappuccino in Italian without freaking out (“da portar via” is the term you use to say “to go” or “for takeaway”). The street signs, which are often prettily engraved into the sides of buildings, are beginning to look a little more familiar. During rush hour, the metro cars will inevitably feel more overcrowded than a mosh pit, and the Termini train station feels more like a speedy obstacle course than Suburban or 30th Street Station ever will.
On the other hand, I’ve recognized that there are certain things to which I will never become accustomed, like the fact that there is literally art everywhere you turn. Every corner, every square and plaza, every side street is adorned with some fantastical form of art, whether it is a cluster of colossal statues, an intricate 400 year old fountain, or a 10-story-tall obelisk. In other words, you don’t need to enter a museum in Rome to see some of the most amazing and historically rich artwork in the world—you simply need to walk around. And that will always continue to shock and amaze me.
The fact that it’s been almost a month also instills an ever-so-slight sense of panic. Have I appreciated Rome enough so far? Have I explored enough of it? No doubt, I’ve seen a lot—like the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica on class excursions, or the beautiful Ostia beach and the enchantingly creepy Cripta dei Cappuccini with roommates and friends. But Rome is huge—over 1,200 square kilometers. To put things in perspective, Philadelphia is about 370 square kilometers. The pressing question has remained entrenched in my mind: how does one experience Rome in just the right way?
This question was still in the back of my mind when I took the metro to the southern side of the city to get material for an article assignment for The Temple News. I write about gallery exhibits for the newspaper, and luckily, there are plenty of exhibits in Rome with unlikely connections to Temple University. For example, the artwork of Temple Rome students is currently on display at the Cimiterio Acattolico, or Non-Catholic Cemetery, of Rome. I’d never even heard of the cemetery before, so when I walked in, I was completely floored. The cemetery was filled with palm trees, overflowing vegetation, gorgeous flowers that glowed in the morning sunlight, and a silence that was occasionally punctuated by the chirping of birds. The graves were decorative and diverse: some displayed simple crosses, while others encompassed busts and sculptures or held inscriptions of Arabic and Hebrew text. It was, quite simply, one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen in my life. Maybe my allergies were acting up from all the flowers, but I suddenly realized there were tears running down my face.
So, I still haven’t completely solved the question of “how to experience Rome,” but I will say this: you never know what amazing experience you will stumble upon in this city, and that’s what makes it so precious and incredible.