My time abroad thus far has been at times difficult. It’s been a while since I was last thrown into a situation in which I knew no one and no one knew me. I am warming up to the place, though, as I’ve finally decided that if I am going to be able to do what I came here to do, that is, to immerse myself in the culture and the people of Rome, then I am going to have to take a couple steps outside my comfort zone.
I love the city of Rome: its history, its people, its culture. I walk around the city by myself because when I do, I see things that normally I would pass by when with another person or in a group. Our tour guide at Ostia Antica, a JCU professor, told us that the best thing we can do for ourselves in Rome (or anywhere) is to just use our eyes, see things and observe them. When I am alone I find restaurants, bakeries, and other shops that perhaps few American students would ever think about; I see images of the Virgin Mary at street corners telling the stories of a people living long ago; I see the most simple, yet beautiful, churches in places that many people would just pass by (and I always take time to take a walk inside). I see children running around at a park or at a piazza and their parents diligently watching them. I see emotion on the faces of people who have just experienced a great pain or joy. Walking alone helps to see these people as real people, who have stories, and whose stories are contained in every nook and cranny of Rome.
Romans are more than just part of a city, they are part of one another and they take time out of their day to make sure that this does not change; they do leisure so well because they care about one another and they care about taking the time to ensure that they do not lose one another. There does not seem to be individual leisure here; it feels like every person in Trastevere is out at Piazza Trilussa or at the restaurants and bars, or perhaps even walking along the Tiber, stopping at the different shops. This has been my experience of the Roman people and their culture for the first week and a half since I’ve come to this great city.
Zac – St. Norbert College