I spent three nights and two full days of this weekend in Rome. I was there for a week or so during July, and this was my fourth trip there in total (the first being six years ago, when I was just fourteen), but every time I visit, the city has something new to give me. This time, I met up with my friend Andy, who’s studying at Trinity College in Dublin for this school year and who had always wanted to go to Rome but had never even been to Europe until his trip to Dublin. With my more-than-average knowledge of the history, myth, legend, geography, and even language of Rome, I led us on a two-day whirlwind tour of all of the major sights and experiences, including:
the Vatican Museum + Sistine Chapel;
St. Peter’s Basilica + climb to the ‘cupola’ (the pinnacle atop the dome);
Piazza di Spagna/Spanish Steps;
Piazza del Popolo and Via del Corso;
Victor Emmanuel Monument;
Colosseum (properly known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, in case you were curious).
In fact, the best question is probably what we didn’t see. We didn’t cross the river and hang out in Trastevere, we didn’t go into the museum at the Villa Borghese, we didn’t rent Vespas…and really that’s about all that we didn’t manage that I have at some point done or wanted to do.
My favorite part was being in the Forum at sunset; I took more pictures in that one hour than I did at any other site we visited, I’m almost sure of it. There’s something beautiful about Rome at sunset, but the Forum at sunset in mid-October was totally breathtaking; I’ve never seen anything like it, in Italy or elsewhere (though Florence, near the Arno River, during a summer sunset comes to mind). I also really liked climbing to the top of the ‘Vittoriano,’ as the Victor Emmanuel Monument is called in Italian, and seeing the city from there, something my family and I had never done. The days were long, and there was a lot of walking, but I had a fantastic time — mostly because I’m slowly becoming more and more familiar with the city and its culture. I’m even getting confident enough in basic Italian to ask for directions, order a meal, and always say my pleases and thank-yous (not to mention read street signs and purchase train and metro tickets). Actually, it wasn’t until after I’d gone through the whole process in Italian that I realized the self-service metro ticket machines could be made to display their instructions in English.
This upcoming weekend will be spent reading Nicholas Nickleby and writing the first essay of the semester (a close textual analysis of a passage from Jane Eyre) because the weekend after that, I will be making my first ever trip to Paris! Then I have one more week of instruction before I get a whole week off for ‘Reading Week,’ in which technically you’re supposed to study and catch up with reading, but when I and my friends will be spending two and a half days in Barcelona followed by three and a half days in Marrakesh. I’m really excited to be doing so much traveling and experiencing so many different places while I’m here, but I’m equally excited to be able to call London ‘home.’
I had a few hours of crazy stress yesterday because the way that you turn in assignments here is so different, and teachers in general seem less concerned about reminding you when your assignments are due. In this case, I was pretty sure that an assignment for my Dickens class was due today by 4:30pm, but when I logged onto the VLE (think blackboard or bspace) it said that it was due yesterday
(today at the time) by 4:30pm. It was 1pm when I read this and I had class starting at 3 that I couldn't miss. I ran around finishing up my assignment (thank god it was mostly done already) and then filling out the requisite coversheets (both in print and online) and submitting both a virtual copy via the VLE and a hard copy in person to the English Department office. This makes me miss Berkeley.
Also, my Representing London: the Eighteenth Century class was talking about coffeehouses today and the different kinds of sociability one finds there, and it made me miss my favorite cafe in Berkeley. Oh, Milano, how I pine for thee. There's good coffee here but the pub is the social locale du jour
, so I'm stuck with convenient but uninspiring cafes. Still, I can't complain, because they're in London. Every so often I'll be doing something — whether it be reading Jane Eyre
, or listening to a Beatles song, or just walking outside and breathing in the beautiful grass-and-wet-cement smell of early mornings post-rain — and then I'll realize that I'm not just reading this novel, or listening to this music, or capturing this moment. I'm doing it in a place that made
it, in a sense. London is the genesis of so many things that are important to me. Maybe that's why coming here feels in its own way less like going away and more like coming home.