Upon arriving in Rome, I quickly picked up on the fact that Italians like to out-ciao each other. It’s almost like they’re so excited to see each other that one ciao is never enough.
My name is Caroline LeBranti, and I’m a junior at Fordham University studying business and graphic design. Studying abroad in Rome is the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for as long as I can remember… or at least since 2003 (which may or may not coincide with the premiere of the Lizzie McGuire Movie). My Italian heritage, my inclination to be a food snob, and my passion for art and culture all contributed to this decision of a lifetime.
These past eight days have been a whirlwind of excitement, exhaustion, eagerness, confusion, filthiness, and pure bliss. From getting lost for hours and finally stumbling on the perfect view of the city above the Piazza del Poppolo, to having to take freezing cold showers due to a hot water shortage at the Residence, my short time in Italy thus far has been a series of triumphs and minor defeats. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know that my passionate affair with Roma is still in its “honeymoon phase,” but I am confident in saying that the city’s uneven cobblestone roads and romantic culture have had me intoxicated since day one.
Highlights from the week would include almost every second of every day, but I’ll try to name a few:
On my first day in Rome I was wondering around the city with some of my new friends after the kick off pizza party at Temple. We were walking aimlessly, without any maps or directions, and all of a sudden we found ourselves staring out at the city from one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen. As a person who always likes to have a plan, it felt so refreshing to lose my way for a bit and discover something so incredible. That moment will definitely be ingrained in my mind for quite some time.
One of my favorite nights so far was exploring the Trastevere neighborhood and discovering the River Walk along the Tiber. The River Walk is similar to your classic American street fair, except it’s along one of the most historic rivers in the world and it possesses this extravagant, Italian charm that you just don’t get back in the states. For about a mile stretch there are food stands, games, live music, booths selling everything from jewelry to hermit crabs, and pop up restaurants with trendy wicker furniture and sweeping white drapes everywhere. I even found a little piece of home in one of the clothing booths- a Sox jersey!
The best decision I’ve made thus far was to venture to Sperlonga for the day this past Saturday. Sperlonga is a beach town about an hour and a half outside of Rome, where most Romans flock to get away from the hot city in the summer. When the bus pulled up to the stop right across from the beach, none of us could keep our cool because of the gorgeous views and crystal clear, turquoise water. The day was spent lounging in the sun, shooing away locals trying to sell us Pashmina scarves and blow up floaties, taking millions of pictures with our waterproof cameras, eating pizza and gelato, and just taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Another extremely memorable day was our last day of orientation. Usually when one thinks about a school orientation they think awkward icebreaker games and cookouts with burgers and hot dogs. That’s not really how Temple Rome rolls. Instead, we loaded two coach buses at 8 am and drove to the Italian countryside region of Umbria. We first stopped in Todi, which is a quaint little village filled with gothic architecture, delicious cafes, and trendy boutiques. I probably took 500 pictures in the matter of two hours, but not even my high tech, brand new Canon could capture its beauty. We then loaded back on the bus and drove up a windy road to Titignano, a smaller village outside of Todi, for a fourteen-course meal in a grand estate. I am still waiting to wake up from this dream/exit out of this food coma.
Lastly, meeting my wonderful, quirky roommates and friends have made this enchanting experience all the more magical. One of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom, once noted, “But scenery without solace is meaningless.” Getting to experience the beauty of this foreign place with such enthusiastic and thoughtful people is something I’m extremely grateful for.
As a final remark, I’m already starting to plan my life as an expatriate (just kidding, Mom!…kinda). We’ll see how the next three months go, but if it’s anything like this past week, Arrivederci, America! Roma is the one for me.
Though EVERY experience has been incredible so far, the most miraculous was our Temple-run adventure to Todi and Titignano. Luckily, we were fortunate enough to be led by the prodigious Gianni Marangio.
Over the hills of sunflower fields and through the winding roads seemingly leading to nowhere, our group ventured to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
After a day full of pictures and sightseeing, we left the quiet city to get SPOILED in Titignano. A free Italian feast with wine, cheese, pasta, venison and tiramisu couldn’t have been any more spectacular, or filling. Pretty sure every one of us left with a serious food coma.
After two weeks in the program, I can honestly say that I feel like an entirely new person. The friends I have made seem like they have been in my life forever. Walking around the city no longer makes me anxious or concerned for fear of getting lost. Somehow, school-run events and activities captivate my attention for the first time. My roommates already know so much about me—at times we stop everything just to talk about the phenomenon that is the Temple Rome experience.
After these past two weeks of adventuring, cooking, site-seeing, dressing up, and creating new friendships it would be SIMPLE to accurately describe the Temple Rome life as perfect. Let’s hope I still feel this way once classes really begin.
First meal in Rome (Eggplant Parm–the local ristorante‘s specialty)
The new crew of friends hanging out by the Tiber River, and climbing on statues (met on the first day)
First View of the Bridge next to Temple Rome
Right by the Borghese Gardens, on the Temple-run walking Tour of Roma.
Another day, another group of new friends (casually hanging out by the Piazza del Popolo)
Day Trip to Sperlonga Beach. There is no limit to where we can adventure off to.
Another Temple Run program, ROME SCAVENGER HUNT! (Even if we came in seventh, we still had fun)
Can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring!
It’s impossible to describe how amazing being in Rome has been so far! The city is more beautiful than I ever could have expected, and this past week has been so eventful and so much fun. It’s hard to believe we’ve only been here six days, because while time has flown by, I’ve also already experienced so much. Now that classes are about to start, the reality of being in Italy has finally sunk in. The semester has officially begun!
Although as I write this, I haven’t left my house yet (flight is at 6 pm..the countdown begins!) I can already say one of the definite perks of studying abroad in the Fall is having the whole summer to prepare. An organized student can really take advantage of the summer months to research, brush up on their Italian, pack ahead of time, and plan out trips and excursions.
Which I did!
…Okay, not really. But I’ve always been more of the “spontaneous adventure” type rather than “plan everything ahead of time”.
Now that today is THE DAY, my feelings are a little more like this:
Am I ready? Maybe.
I know this is going to be an unforgettable, life-changing 3 1/2 months. I can’t wait for it to begin!
The summer program ended last week with an art show exhibiting everyone’s work.
This Tyler senior displayed some paintings she did around Rome.
This student prepares to bring her work home.
These two girls discuss what they should do for their last night in Rome.
This student takes down his photographs from the exhibit before he leaves.
Graphic design major Cassy looks through student sketchbooks left open on a table.
Six weeks living in Rome was a life changing experience. Making new friends, learning new things, and seeing a new culture is once in a lifetime opportunity of which I encourage everyone to take advantage. Whether going alone or with friends, whether you have traveled before or have not been outside the United States, this experience will change you and help you grow. It will be a moment you will never forget. In these last photos, I share with you some memorable moments and advice:
Try to get up early to check out Rome when it’s less hectic. While you’re at it, grab the best cappuccino you’ll ever have.
Visit other parts of Italy to get a better understanding of Italian culture as a whole. Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is truly beautiful.
If you have to buy souvenirs for women, go to Florence and stop by the San Lorenzo leather market for gifts that will surely please. Don’t forget to stop by Il Duomo while you’re in town.
And, if you are a woman-or if you just like shoes-have some custom made to your feet. Cute custom made sandals can be made in Capri, or if you want to stay local, there are shops in Rome, too.
Enjoy and explore Rome. Fall in love with the city and, if you can, visit again.