A Hilltop Experience: Viewing Rome from Above

Today, UC Berkeley student Brigitta Rehn, who spent this Spring in Rome studying Art, Food and Society, introduces us the Terrazza del Gianicolo, a balcony on the Janiculum Hill overlooking Rome.

The day I arrived in Rome I was eager to immerse myself in the city as much as possible, so I decided to walk from the ACCENT center to my apartment instead of talking a taxi. On a map, it seemed like an easy 35-minute walk. Little did I know that this walk was up the large Janiculum hill. Oh, how I chided my foolishness as I lugged my bag up the stairways and sidewalks of a hill that seemed to go on forever.

A week or so after I arrived, as I was adjusting to the daily walk up the hill, my host mom suggested that I walk to school via Terrazza del Gianicolo. As I came upon the terrace perched at the top of the hill, the view took my breath away; the city of Rome was laid out before me, a maze of unknown streets, monuments, and domes. I sat and stared until I risked being late and committed myself to returning often.

During my free time, I explored Rome, gaining an intimate knowledge of the city that comes from getting lost and finding your way back home. As I periodically returned to the terrace on the hill, I slowly began to identify the places that had seemed so unknowable in my first week. The Pantheon and Altare della Patria provided easy reference points, but I gradually developed a knowledge of each dome and even the points where various streets converge.

On my final day in Rome, as I studied for my last exam, I sat on the wall at Terrazza del Gianicolo. On that bright May day, I could hardly focus on my textbook as my eyes kept wandering up to observe the city. Like the face of a loved one I was saying goodbye to, I wanted to remember every bit of this vista. I was no longer looking at a beautiful view of just any city, I was looking at the twists and turns of a place that, in some way, I could call mine.

There are other beautiful views over Rome (Giardino degli Aranci and St. Peter’s Dome, to name a couple) but my heart holds a special spot for the Gianicolo because it is the view from which I first and last saw this city as a whole; that hill which wore me out on my first day gave me a perspective on the city which I have contemplated and etched into my mind, a souvenir of Rome that I will always carry.

In developing a picture of Rome, I have realized the sweet joy in bringing yourself to an unknown place and making the commitment to get to know it. If you get the chance to study abroad, learn to love that foreign city as the special place it is by seeking out spaces that give you unique perspectives on the city, spaces that you can connect with and carry with you when you leave.~Brigitta Rehn, UCEAP Art, Food and Society Program

Did Brigitta’s post inspire you to experience the magic of the Roman cityscape? Research your study abroad options at http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.