I can’t believe I’ve been living in Rome for a whole week! Honestly, it feels like it’s been a month, and in the best way possible. Time just moves slower in the Eternal City. Every day has been long, filled with slow moments of mindfulness, gratitude and awe. They say culture shock affects different people at different times. For some it’s right away, for others it’s four weeks later. I don’t know if I will fall into the latter category, but as of right now – I feel at home. I haven’t skipped a beat. I do think coming from an Italian background and growing up in a close Italian American family with Italian customs and traditions has greatly helped my transition. You just take your time when necessary, go with the flow, and when there’s a bump in the road you just remind yourself there is time to fix it. Rome has practically existed for an eternity, there is always time. Don’t rush, don’t worry.
Wander! Get lost! Just three days into this amazing semester in Rome a few friends, my painting professor and I did just that. We were walking and wandering around the city, marveling at its numerous treasures. Gazing up at the towering Aurelian Wall in disbelief, and crossing its historic threshold to enter the old city I admittedly became quietly overwhelmed. I had never felt so strongly that I had embarked on something great, something important. I knew I had made the right choice in coming here. That day I saw two Caravaggio paintings. In person. In real time. That’s life changing. I stood right below them standing in the same spot they have been viewed at for hundreds of years. They have never left their home at the church, Santa Maria del Popolo. I couldn’t ask anymore from my day. Considering myself satisfied would be putting it lightly, indeed. However my day had more surprises in store for me and my group.
On our walk back from wandering around the Spanish Steps we ran into the Pope. No other way to put it. We saw the man himself, the People’s Pope out in the city. Affectionately called, “Papa” by the locales. Pope Francis was at a small optometrist’s office and glasses shop, just casually shopping for glasses, having done what he needed done, just like you or me. His security was amazingly light. One car outside and two or three guards with him inside the shop. We saw a crowd formed on the side of the street as we approached, not knowing what everyone had gathered for. We were very fortunate in our timing. After we stood in complete disbelief and took few photographs, we walked on. As we left the crowd had tripled in size and police vans were coming in to help with the public surging in to see their Papa. I still cannot fully believe this happened. Only in Rome.
I will not stop sharing how grateful I am to be here in Rome because, if I’m smart, I’ll never stop being overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for my fate. I opened myself to wandering and it lead me to the Pope, his Holiness, in the flesh before my meek, humbled, wide eyes. This first week has proved to me that I can expect to marvel at all the greatness I’ve always studied and known Rome to hold, and I can also look forward to the completely unexpected wonders, those priceless, once in a life time moments I could have never imagined. I just need to keep wandering…