A little less than a year ago, shortly after announcing my desire to study abroad, I remember those around me asking, “Why Rome?”
To be honest, I didn’t know either.
Because at the time, Rome was nothing but a foreign city to me, a big city filled with cars and noise and packed buildings and people running to and fro trying to get to their next destination. So when I decided to study abroad, it was for two reasons: 1) because the program was catered towards creative writing majors, and 2) because I loved Italy. But I didn’t yet love Rome.
How my opinion changed in those three months.
I remember stepping off a public bus on the first day with my fellow classmates and finding myself staring up at the Altare della Patria (jokingly called “The Wedding Cake” by most Romans). It had appeared out of nowhere; just a moment ago, we had been traveling through narrow alleyways and apartment buildings whose balconies were gilded in flowers. In a single block, the world had opened up and deposited that massive, shining, historical building right before our eyes. And tucked right beside it, showing off a piazza made by Michelangelo and a statue of Marcus Aurelius, was the Capitoline Museum. I later discovered it was also the former site of the Temple of Jupiter. Casually placed beside that was the Ara Coeli, a giant and intricate Medieval church. There they were, one after the other, greeting guests such as us with their rich history and hospitality.
Later that day, we were informed by our tour guide that the ground level in Rome has risen at least sixty feet since the time of the Roman Empire. This means that as historical epochs came and went, monuments were built on top of each other. I cannot tell you the number of times I saw cozy Medieval churches built on top of ancient temples, or quaint modern apartment buildings with segments of walls built in the BCs sticking up through the middle. Even the Castel Sant’Angelo, refurbished in the Renaissance with all its powerful angels, is sitting on top of the ancient Mausoleum of Hadrian. Everything is stirred together and exposed, reminding all travelers that the city is here to stay.
But although Rome was a hospitable giant, leaving me speechless with every park, every fountain, and every alleyway, it was the little things that made me adore it so much. The Italian breakfasts: un cappuccino e un cornetto. The familiar faces: “Ciao, Fabio. Ciao, Bruno.” The smell of the cobblestones after rain. The SPQR insignias stamped onto the manhole covers. The sunsets, streaked with orange and yellow, blue and pink, and hints of purple splashed across puffy clouds. I know now why Renaissance artists loved to paint the sky.
I’m home now. I’m back in California, sitting at my computer desk, amidst my mugs of tea and piles of papers as I write this. But although I’m glad to be back in my own house, I feel as if I left a part of myself behind in Rome. There it remains, in the city I thought – so foolishly – that I wouldn’t love.
So, why Rome? Or perhaps for you it’s ‘why London?’ or ‘why Madrid?’. I recommend that you give that city a chance, whatever it may be. Because I have an answer to that question now.
“Because it is my second home.”
~Rachel Schmidt, Santa Barbara City College
Did Rachel’s post inspire you to study abroad and get to know your second home? Research your study abroad options at http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.