Originally published August 2, 2012
As I am writing this post, we are currently on a bus en route to Leon, Spain. It seems so strange that we left Rome this morning, as I had finally become comfortable and settled in. More on that later. For now, let me catch you up to speed.
On Monday, we walked to Piazza Vittorio, the place where the novel by Amara Lakhous takes place (which we read for class). It was interesting to see what the large, surprisingly green and leafy piazza looks like (I had pictured a small, hot stone square, surrounded by overbearing apartment complexes). As we walked by a number of store fronts, each containing boxes of cheap toys and souvenirs which are pedaled to tourists at nearly every square, historical monument and street corner. I learned that these stores sell such trinkets wholesale to these vendors, acting as one overarching supplier. This explains why most vendors sell essentially the same products (which usually light up, flash and/or allude to some sort of crude humor).
Tuesday, we walked through another neighborhood, built around the Roman aqueduct. Originally a place inhabited by immigrants, villas in the quiet, tidy neighborhood now sell for over 2 million euro (for those wondering that kind of money goes A LOT further in the states). That night we went out to dinner; I succumbed to my slight desire for American food and ordered a chocolate milkshake.
I was served a glass of chocolate milk with ice cubes in it. I since have learned to avoid such American cuisine. After dinner we strolled to the Coliseum, which is light up at night. The yellowish arches are set against dark pillars, in front of a navy blue sky, dotted by a full moon. It was honestly one of those, “I can’t believe this is real life” moments. We continued on to Rome’s ‘Ice Bar,’ which essentially is a large hallway, coated with ice and color changing lights; Sounds like fun to me. We walked in the door to be greeted by a large bouncer, who exchanged our money for large cape-jacket-blanket things. The temperature in the ice bar is -5 C (about 25 F), and everything is made of ice. Cups, benches, walls, the bar itself. Everything. It was extremely touristy, as most people there were Americans studying abroad, however, I thought it was worth it.
Wednesday, our last day in Rome, was consumed mostly by yet another walking tour, this time of graffiti. The first piece of street art we saw was called “The Wall of Fame,” as it consisted of huge black/white portraits, set against a bright red background, each of a different American cultural icon, one for every letter in the alphabet. Never in my life did I think I would be standing in the middle of Rome, looking a large mural of Notorious B.I.G. (representing letter “B” on the wall). Nor a picture of Jimi Hendrix next to Iron Man. Perhaps the most surprising was Spike Lee dressed as ‘Mars Blackmon,’ a popular character used in old Air Jordan commercials (“It’s gotta be the shoes”).
Unfortunately, from there on, the tour went downhill. I’m not entirely sure how long we walked, but after sometime in the stifling heat and humidity, we found ourselves in a Kurdish tea parlor/slaughterhouse, attempting to converse with immigrants, while batting away hoards of flies. I say “attempting” because in order for one of us to ask one of them a question, the guide had to translate English into Italian, and then another guy translated it into Kurdish, allowing for a response to the original question. For the student to receive an answer the process was repeated in reverse.
On the way home we stumbled upon a lush cemetery, full of palm trees, thick grasses, and marble white headstones. It was somewhat of a peaceful place of reflection and thought in the middle of a bustling urban neighborhood. That evening, Reed and I made our way to the Spanish Steps and surrounding shopping district. I may or may not have purchased light yellow Euro pants. Probably one of my better purchases thus far.
That night, as we cleaned out the apartment, I felt a number of things: excitement, anxiety, gratitude, etc. I was excited for something new: Spain (and milder weather!). I was anxious, as I had finally settled into our ‘home’ in Rome. We had established somewhat of a routine (humans like routines because they bring order and repetition, and prevent change; humans aren’t particularly fond of change). More than anything, I was gracious of the past two weeks. For two weeks, I lived in one of the most storied cities in the entire world (as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”). I enjoyed great food, good company and experiences that I will never forget.
Yet again, I cannot explain how I became attached to a city in a matter of days, however, leaving this morning was bittersweet.