I think my first surprise upon arriving in Rome was that it was a city. Sounds silly, I know, but what I mean is that I was caught off guard by the pace, the noise, and the commotion. I grew up in New York and frequently visited the city. I was used to packed metros and honking cars. However, for some reason these things threw me for a loop when I first arrived. Looking back now, I think my thought process was “Oh, I’m going to live in an old beautiful ancient city.” All of that is true, but it is a modern city as well.
Vespas speed past you, cars stop at the very last minute for walking pedestrians, and what seems like honking fights break out on the roads. As I hustle to class every morning, I tend to find myself lost in the city aspects of Rome. And so, when I realize just how fast I am walking, I’ll stop for just a moment and remember where I am. I look at the beautiful eucalyptus trees lining my street, the heads of stone pine trees poking over some buildings. I am not just in any city, I’m in Rome.
My favorite moments so far have actually been little pockets of time where the noise is cancelled out; I realize where I am and the beauty surrounding me. One of these moments was at the Borghese Gardens just this past week. My Rome Sketchbook class went to practice drawing nature and man-made objects. Towards the end of class, my professor Roberto Caracciolo came over and sat next to me to discuss what I had sketched. I had sat on the ground right next to this sculpture of Moses and his sister placed within a fountain covered in papyri.
Our conversation turned into one of art, ageing, wisdom and experience. While in the midst of this conversation, I realized just how beautiful this moment was. I was in Rome, drawing at the Borghese Gardens. I was sitting on the ground, having an incredibly interesting and impactful conversation about art and its progression with my professor while the sun hit our backs and the sound of trickling water filled the air. This moment truly encompasses all that I am looking forward to experiencing in Rome. To be present in such a rich city, and to learn from what surrounds me and the art that I will make.
When I was researching study abroad programs, I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to go to Italy. As an art studio major (and personally art history fanatic), Rome just felt right. It was colorful, ancient, and rich with Caravaggio’s, Bernini’s, and Michelangelo’s. From just these first three weeks, Rome has shown and taught me so much. Not just how to properly order an iced cappuccino at the bar (yes iced coffee is a thing!) but also how to meet locals, adventure out with new people, and how to appreciate the world surrounding you.
Within the next few weeks, I also hope to find a Jewish community while here in Rome. It’s actually going to be a main theme of my future posts. Seeing as how I was raised in a religious and culturally Jewish family, I know that finding a synagogue or Friday night shabbat service will provide me with comfort and stability while abroad. There’s nothing quite like finding yourself in a beautiful temple surrounded by beautiful voices singing together in a language you might not understand, but have always heard.
So far I’ve struggled to find accessible information on synagogues nearby with open services. Yom Kippur was just last week and I sadly was unable to find a service to attend. However, I did hold Tashlich by myself at the Tiber. While I hope to find a community soon, it was still very special to reflect on this past year in such a beautiful and exciting city.
I am curious to see what communities exist within a city rich with Jewish history. How will services, traditions, and especially the food differ from my conservative Ashkenazi upbringing in New York. Will the language barrier be an obstacle? Or will religion create community regardless of nationality and age?