I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my summer studying abroad in Rome, Italy. Granted, it’s always in the back of my mind as Rome is my favorite city. The food I ate, the routes I walked, the people I met, and the sites I saw are all still so vivid. If I went back tomorrow, I’m quite sure I could still make my way through the city with ease.
I once wrote a blog post about how it is possible to see the highlights of Rome in a single day, and my recommended route. But I realize I never really wrote about my experience during that summer.
The year was 2012
My day-to-day life was a dream. Most of the time was spent with my small group from college, and I made a couple great friends because of that. Our days consisted of the following:
- Take bus/metro to class
- Italian lessons until 1pm
- Lunch at delicious restaurants
- Exploring the Eternal City
Of course it is a requirement to see the Roman Forum and Colosseum! The day we went was relatively quiet, which meant we had the chance to take some quality pictures. It did not take us very long to wander throughout both sites, but the memory is forever engraved in my mind. The fact that generations have come and gone, yet they’re still standing just proves me right. Humans are not as important as we think we are – life goes on without us.
One culture-absorbing expedition took us outside of Rome’s city limits. We spent about 24 hours in Naples and Pompeii and thanks to heat exhaustion, I could not enjoy the famed Neapolitan Pizza. It was the most heartbreaking food experience I’ve had. BUT my group and I had a ton of fun wandering through the ruins of Pompeii and catching a glimpse of Mt. Vesuvius. I may have taken a chance to sit on one of the stone beds in a brothel. When in Pompeii… We also found that Naples is dirty, but mostly due to the still-standing fascist buildings.
Real talk: the main reason for going to Italy is to stuff your face full of carbs.
So please imagine my delight when I’m introduced to the best pizzeria and gelateria in Rome – less than twenty minutes from my apartment! I highly encourage everyone to go eat at Ristorante Al Padovano and Gelateria La Gradisca. If you go to Al Padovano, make sure you chat with the twins who run the place – they are the sweetest!
Day-to-day food was obviously delicious as well. A majority of our weekday lunches were at a place called Bar Garden, just off of Piazza Bologna. Our school program had set it up for a quick breakfast every day before class, and lunch four days a week. They had a good selection for us, but let’s be honest. I was usually eating pasta. If you’re wondering where that fifth lunch took place, it was at Enrico A Piazza Bologna. And if you ask any of my program-mates, they will tell you that their pasta is the best in Rome. I respectfully disagree. The best pasta in Rome is, oddly, at the Abbey Theatre Irish Pub. Like I said, odd.
If you don’t know me and my eating habits personally, let’s just say that I am definitely braver about trying new foods when I travel. My peak bravery is in Italy, because if it’s not good, Italians don’t put it in their bodies. Unlike America, which lost my trust – food-wise – long ago.
I would be remiss if I talked about Rome without mentioning the art. My Italian professor once said that you can’t leave college without having a favorite artist and sculptor. Obviously with my Italian soul, my sculptor is Bernini. And while I adore the Trevi Fountain, the fountain in Piazza Navona and his sculptures in the Villa Borghese sold me. But seriously, there is so much art throughout Rome and not nearly enough time to enjoy it all.
One of my last nights in Rome was spent at a local bar to check something off my list – watching the Italian national soccer team play in the UEFA Euro tournament alongside the Romans. I went with a couple people from my college group to a local place for the occasion, Pepy’s, in Piazza Barberini. The game? Italy versus Ireland, with Italy kicking butt and going on to the quarterfinals. I had so much fun being around all of the loyal Italian soccer fans – the energy was infectious! It was the perfect way to begin saying goodbye to Rome.
The day I left Rome was one of the worst days of my life, but not for the reason you may think. I won’t go too much into it, but by the time I arrived to my connecting airport in London, a bottle of Dr. Pepper brought me to tears. And not just because it was my first one after a six-week separation. Honestly, all Italy is missing is Dr. Pepper. Focus, Tabitha. This trip gave me so much – I met people from all over the world, I got more exercise that summer that all the previous combined, and I immersed myself in a culture that I love.
Why is Rome my favorite city? At no point during those six weeks did I ever feel like it wasn’t home.