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Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

First Reflections In Rome

Guest Blogger Katerina Athanasiou


Suddenly, it’s mid-February. It seems that our time in Rome is already passing by rapidly. Allow me to backtrack a bit. I arrived in Rome on January 5th – a few days before intensive Italian classes began. Arriving with only the most basic knowledge of Italian language — ciao, per favore, arrivederci – I was excited to start! These weeks were a whirlwind. Those enrolled in Italian were in class from 10 till 1 and 2 till 3:30 every day! Though classes were surely taxing, they were also incredibly rewarding. It’s pretty surreal how much we all learned in such a short period of time. Our elementary Italian was supplemented by our everyday attempts to get acquainted with Rome. These were perhaps some of my most rewarding experiences: recognizing the names of vegetables in the grocery store, ordering a loaf of bread in a bakery, asking for directions. After two weeks of learning our way around, all planners, artists, and architects finally arrived in Rome, right before a weekend of orientations (as Becky described) and the official start of classes on January 17th.

From architectural history to photography, our courses are only enhanced by location. Getting to learn in a truly hands-on way is a very distinct experience. For instance, the planning students are all enrolled in the “Rome Workshop,” in which we are all put into groups and assigned neighborhoods. I’ll be studying Garbatella, a part of Rome initially designed to be a “Garden City.” I remember reading Ebenezer Howard’s work on garden cities in The American City just this fall, so getting to experience this first hand is really interesting. After our first week of classes, we had a free weekend during which some students chose to travel. Cornell in Rome took a trip to a very cold Naples last week, which I’ll be recapping about soon!

So far, life in Rome is chaotic but beautiful. I must say that the Rome I dreamt up in my head was much smaller and village-like. On the contrary, Rome is a bustling metropolis that functions as the nation’s capital, home of many Italians, and revolving door for tourists. Unfolding the many layers of Rome — from ruins to modern day functions – provides for a constant adventure. Living in the heart of the historical district, just around the corner from our classes at the Palazzo, is in many ways surreal. Almost daily, while on a casual walk or when wildly lost, one can run into an old fountain or beautiful church, some of which are not even major landmarks in the city. Rome is endlessly striking and engaging.

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