According to my Program Manual, I am supposed to be in the Honeymoon phase of culture shock. That is incredibly accurate. In fact, I just got married to the hunk of fresh mozzarella that was on my sandwich, and I think we’re going to be very happy together.
But I knew that I would fall in love with the food. I did not anticipate falling in love with the city. Rome is a city of balance. Ancient buildings are accessed via modern transportation. Tall, healthy trees tower over the crowded, urban streets. Graffiti and honeysuckle share the same concrete wall. Cold, public water fountains provide relief from the bright sun. And a seemingly laid-back lifestyle accompanies the rush of traffic.
After living in both south Philly and The-Middle-of-Nowhere, PA (think surrounded by farmland with an unobstructed view of the mountains and a 20-minute drive to the grocery store), I craved that balance, and I’m so glad I found it here.
I spent the weekend making friends and making memories. Saturday I got lunch at a baguetteria with a group of Temple students. Then Maya and I walked to the Borghese gardens and found a “quiet” place to work on our reading assignment – quiet meaning as far away as possible from the Italian man singing “I shot the sheriff…but I did not shot the deputee” and strumming along on his guitar.
Saturday evening I set out for a walk. There were whispers going around about an amazing view near the Residence, and I was determined to find it. After grabbing a gelato, I started walking uphill. Sure enough, I got to the top and there was Rome. All of it. I peeled myself away, but only because the sun was setting and I wanted to get home before dark (that’s right Mom, safety first!).
Sunday morning we all hopped on a bus to visit the hillside towns of Todi and Titignano, in the region of Umbria. We had a couple short hours in Todi for “Operation: Take as Many Pictures as Possible.” Then we hopped back on the buses for a twisty-curvy ride to Titignano, for “Operation: Eat as Much as Possible.” Titignano is an agriturismo, so the majority of the food served was either grown, hunted, or produced on the premises.
That’s impressive, considering we were served 14 courses: pizza, crostini, fried olives, salami, a cheese-filled pastry, asparagus risotto, fresh pasta with wild boar sauce, venison and mushrooms, lamb and potatoes, salad with olive oil vinaigrette, tiramisu, almond biscotti (for dunking in the dessert wine), fresh fruit, and espresso. Lunch lasted three hours, and then we took one last look at the view before returning to the buses and riding home.
The transition from tourist to student began on Monday, with the start of classes. I will be taking Urban Health and Art History. In addition to figuring out my class schedule, I spent the beginning of this week figuring out some of the little things: hand-washing laundry and hanging it to dry on the balcony, weighing produce at the grocery store, lighting the gas stove, buying a sponge to wash dishes and drying them in the cabinet…?
Being unsure of how to conquer basic tasks can be scary, but when you do it – when you order that sandwich in Italian and the mozzarella cheese changes your life – it feels like a major accomplishment.
This week’s fabulous drivers deserve that same sense of accomplishment.
And…the moment you’ve been waiting for…
The Gelato Flavor of the Week was slightly less challenging from a judging standpoint – coconut was my favorite, followed by chocolate chip and coffee. That coffee was good, but I wish it came with a warning label. Anyone know how to say “caffeine content” in Italian?
Until next week!