After traveling for 24 hours (including buses, taxis, layovers, and flights) I finally made it to Rome, one day before the program started. As soon as I walked off the airport, I felt at home. It was one of the best feelings in the world. The Italian classes I took last term definitely paid off because communicating with Italians hasn’t been a problem yet. Most people here speak English and/or Spanish, so communication is not an issue if you don’t speak the language.
On the first night, I stayed at the Hostel Trustever, which is a beautiful hostel in Trastevere, an up and coming part of town. The best thing about this hostel was its location. Because it’s not a touristy area, I got to experience a local feel my first night in Rome. Once I got to the hostel at 5:00pm, I wanted to eat something before I crashed for the night. But, guess what? Everything was closed. Italy, as well as most Europe, close their businesses from 1-3pm for lunch/nap time. Most restaurants don’t reopen until 7:00pm for dinner. However, Italians eat a lot, as each person orders an antipasti and they will most likely share with the table, a first course (pasta), second course (meat), and an espresso and/or dessert. Another thing I noticed about Italians is that they all are about family, and they tend to spend a lot of time together, especially during dinner time. It was very odd for me to be sitting at a table all by myself, while other tables had around 4-6 people. Something else I realized the hard way was that they will serve you bread and water, but you will have to pay for it with an additional service fee. However, you don’t really need to pay tip because it’s not a common thing in Europe, so this is their way of earning that extra money. A huge thing that shocked me was how crazy they drive in Italy. Crossing the streets and getting a cab is twice as hard as it is in New York City. Italy doesn’t really have street rules (or at least they don’t follow them), so you have to cross the street at your own risk. Nonetheless, I can say that overall it’s a safe city.
As you probably know, Italy is a very catholic country, as it is home to the Vatican City, a.k.a. the Pope’s home. Every Sunday and Wednesday at noon, the Pope makes an appearance at a window in the Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Plaza) and gives a blessing and message to the people. On the first official day of the program, some of us went to the Pope’s blessing, while we waited for everyone to get back from the airport. It’s a very tedious process to get in through security; therefore, I didn’t bring my camera with me. However, because I left it at home, I didn’t have any good quality pictures from the blessing. Even though he was speaking Italian, I was able to understand a little bit. My classmates from the program were very confused, but regardless the language they enjoy the experience as much as I did. All I can say is that no matter your religion, it’s clearly an experience to listen to Pope Francis speak. I guess now I can say: “I’ve been blessed”. Hopefully, I will get to experience this again, and will be able to get a good picture to share next time.
Rome is a beautiful city with a lot of history and culture to offer. The architecture of the buildings is mesmerizing, and the food is to die for. I can’t wait to see what this city has to offer and all the adventures I will encounter.