Time is flying by too quickly, and I rarely am given these spare moments to write about my travels. I am now in Italy and it is probably becoming of my favorite places we’ve visited so far. There is so many new things to see (and eat!) here and, since this is my school semester after all, I’m bogged down with academic writings to complete before the awe completely overtakes me.
Our first stop in Italy was Rome and it completely blew me away – what a different world from France and England! I was mesmerized by the ancient history of the city, so old that nothing else I’ve seen yet is comparable. It’s one thing to learn about the Roman Empire and talk of their lifestyles, but it is quite another to be walking down the sidewalk with your class and tutor only to turn the corner and see the imposing columns of the old Forum still standing.
I think the antiquity occupying the same space alongside the modern is such an interesting experience; it’s like the ruins refuse to be swallowed up by time and instead linger around as reminders that there is a worldly past much greater than any of us could ever truly understand.
Imposing buildings like the Pantheon and the Colosseum are more than the articles in the history books but are actually part of life here in Rome. Seeing the Pantheon in my art history class and discussing its importance in terms of architecture is not nearly as exciting as walking around the domed building, or even sitting outside the square on a hot day eating gelato and watching the tourists mill about in front of its great columned entrance. Visiting the city has given me my own encounters and memories within these spaces and they are not quite as alien to me anymore.
Of course, I played the part of the tourist at times – let’s face it, who knows the next time I will be here in Rome again. I went to the Vatican to see St. Peter’s Basilica and to attend the Pope’s address and mass blessing, which was a wonderful experience. I also toured the Colosseum and the Capitoline Museum, where the great remains of the Constantine statue are housed.
Everywhere I went, the grandeur of Rome met me and I was constantly amazed at the sheer monumentality and scale of this city. There is no way to forget that you are walking in a very important place. Let’s not forget the food either! The Italians are proud of their food heritage as much as they are about their history, and I was certainly not let down. Some of the best pizza, coffee, and gelato of my entire life has been consumed this past week and I still have Florence and Venice to discover! It’s a good thing we are not staying six weeks here in Italy like we did at Oxford, otherwise I would spend all my souvenir money on great food.
For the first time on this trip I truly do feel like I am abroad and in a different country – new territory to explore, so to speak. I am sure that Italy will inspire me throughout the next week and I will happily share my experiences here with the rest of you.