A City–Eternal?

‘I have breathed the air of a thousand Romans.’ -Unknown


I spent last weekend in Rome for my birthday, and I realized a few things:

1. I did well in choosing Florence over Rome for my study abroad location. Rome is a bit too big for me, especially if I want to get to know the area well. Everything was bigger in Rome: not only the sheer size of the buildings, statues, churches, and piazzas, but even the very bricks from which they were made.

Mass in St. Peter’s on Sunday morning was mostly spent gaping at the ceilings so far above, and gazing at the biggest bronze statue in the world behind me, and smiling at the Koine Greek words around the top of the nave. The pipe organ played, and the monks chanted in Latin, and we worshipped God together in many tongues.rome1

Rome even astonishes in numbers: there are over 600 churches in the city, and over 2000 fountains. 1400 of the latter were present in the ancient days, and most are still in working condition. I love walking up to the stone faces on the side of buildings and taking a deep drink of the cool water, still brought in by ancient aqueducts.

2. I can officially travel on my own–a real confidence builder. I was wandering through this foreign city alone when I thought to myself, No one knows where I am. I had no roommate, no host mom making supper for me, I didn’t have to text anyone about my whereabouts. It was the most alone I have ever been, and not only did I survive–I thrived.rome2

Sunday afternoon was the height of my ‘lonely’ travels: I asked the hotel manager where the closest beach was, stole a towel from the room, and headed out to Ostia, an hour south of Rome proper. I took two different metro lines and a half-hour train ride with a bunch of wild, screaming Italian children who were going to the amusement park there, then paid a fortune for a an hour’s use of a lounge chair.


I didn’t realize you had to pay to go to the beach in Europe. The Montanan in me thought, Isn’t nature supposed to be free? But I saw enough old men in speedos to last me a lifetime, so I guess I’m picky about freedom…because that shouldn’t be allowed.

Anyway, the beach was a nice change. I realized I hadn’t seen the ocean (except from an aircraft) since I went to the beaches of Normandy in northern France in 2011. I’ve always considered myself a mountain girl, but there is something fascinating about endless water.

3. No earthly thing is eternal. The ruins, especially in places such as the Area Sacra, sang softly of sadness: still and lifeless, they tell a story–a story of death. The Colosseum was still an impressive structure, but it, too, will pass.


The forum has always been one of my favorite places in Rome. Unlike many of the other ancient structures, the forum is a picture of everyday life in ancient times. Small signs point out ‘the house of Caesar Augustus’ and other similar locations. There were gardens, still tended, and small fountains in courtyards.

I took off my shoes and allowed the dust to cover my feet and ankles. I thought of the days when Romans must have passed through these houses, kicking up the same dust.post 3.7

I wondered if they ever thought that their lives, then so well fortified by power and made secure by the sheer size of Rome, would someday become a city-wide museum. Did they consider their legacy?

What will I leave behind?



My Space Shrank When My World Grew

In Florence, Italy, the typical American ‘personal-space bubble’ shrinks to the approximate size of your bathing suit.

When a bus is packed full, no one falls over until that one man gets off and leaves a gap. Then you can be sure that at least three people will fall into that hole before the next stop.

If you make eye contact with the driver before you step into the street, you forfeit your right-of-way. He now knows you are aware of his moving vehicle.post 1.2

This is my fifth trip to Europe, but by studying abroad this time around, I hope to see Italian culture from backstage. I will be living in Florence for three and a half months, and doing so with a host family–two advantages I have never experienced before.

Tonight marks the end of my first week in Italy, although I just began class yesterday. I felt quite at home within three days: my host mom, Cristina, has played a huge role in making sure of that. (However, I recently found out that she will be cleaning my room and doing my laundry this semester, so that takes away from the at-home feeling somewhat–in a good way, I think!)

At first I was a tourist. I visited Florence for three days six and a half years ago, and I was surprised at how much I remembered–but I was still a tourist.

The following morning, I found myself ‘annoyed’ with the throngs of tourists. ‘I must be adjusting already,’ I thought. ‘This is what the locals must feel like everyday.’

But when I awoke the third morning, I knew that was not true. By this point I did not see the tourists as a problem; they were simply a part of the natural background of daily life here.post 1.3

I am only taking 12 credits this semester. I’m used to taking almost twice that many most semesters, so this semester should be a breeze. I did that on purpose; I want to spend as much time exploring Florence (and elsewhere!) as possible. I’ve already found a couple study spots around the city that I’m going to keep tucked away in the back of my mind.

Today’s spot was outside the old Tribunale on the wide benches across the street. Yesterday I sat outside the Lorenzo chapel, and today as yesterday I seemed to go unnoticed by most tourists walking by, allowing me time to write, study and observe. That’s what I do.