My very wise friend Esteban sent me a message yesterday that said, “remember to be a traveler, not a tourist”. I thought it was a very interesting concept that arrived to me at the perfect moment. While in Rome, I have yet to see a few major landmarks and have admittedly spent more time out at night than during the day. I was beginning to question if I was missing out on lacing up my sneakers and cramming my way through the packs of people by the coliseum or Trevi Fountain. This comment gave me a wave of reassurance that I’m not here in Rome to be an extended tourist, I’m here to live and study like the Romans!
Each landmark I’ve come in contact with so far has been an incredible experience that arrived leisurely, not forced into my first week abroad. I would never change how we stumbled across the Pantheon at 3am and were completely captivated by it’s massive presence. Standing at the front entrance under gorgeous lights with literally not another soul in sight was powerful. It was a personal experience that wasn’t found in a guidebook or photo bombed by a pushy tourist. I don’t have a picture of me smiling in front of its beautiful columns; instead I have a memory of actually meeting and experiencing this wonder on my own terms.
I’m fortunate enough to have some friends that share my philosophy on allowing these moments to occur spontaneously as well, which lead us to an adventure yesterday! On a whim Casey, Avery, and I hopped on a bus and wound up in the Trastevere. We stumbled upon a gorgeous view and walked through a park filled with dogs (the thing I miss the most about home!). It was a hidden gem in a stone city! After walking around for a bit, Avery decided he desperately needed a haircut so we spotted the first salon and went in. Dino’s was as authentic as Italian barbershops come. He spoke no English and only used scissors on Avery’s hair. It was a really neat experience, and we got to practice our new Italian skills.
Around 5:30pm we found ourselves back by the coliseum and excited by how gorgeous the weather still was! If I haven’t mentioned it, it rains all the time in Rome so beautiful weather must be taken advantage of. Always wanting to have the best view, Avery declared we absolutely had to climb to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument, aka the HUGE set of steps and columns in Piazza Venezia. This monument offers a spectacular 360-degree view of Rome from above! Sprinting up the steps, we made it to the ticket booth about 10 minutes before it closed and hopped in the glass elevator to ride up to the top (I tried not to look down). Once on top, we were with maybe four other people. The city was shifting gears right in front of our eyes: the tourists were flooding away and the nightlife was emerging.
We were so lucky to have a beautiful sunset of pinks, purples, and oranges as a backdrop for the unique skyline of Rome! From our perch we were able to see the edges of where old meets new and integration of ancient monuments with busy streets. It was incredible, and with so few people around us (it whittled down to just us and one other couple), we felt like we had a private view of the eternal city. We spent about a half hour taking in the night and beautiful lights before descending with a feeling of accomplishment. We walked around a bit and then randomly chose a restaurant for some dinner and vino! I’ll just add this to the ever-growing list of perfect moments Rome has granted me.
There’s been nothing forced about my time in Rome so far and I’m happy to continue taking my time getting to know the city. This weekend, a friend that works in the Vatican offered to take me on a walking tour of the best but oftentimes ignored places in Rome! With the universe continuing to bless me with gifts like that, I feel like I must be doing something right with my time abroad! I’m slowly beginning to feel like the city’s embracing me as a traveler instead of a tourist, something that will continue to be my goal this semester!