During the first few weeks in Rome most students take Italian language classes, either the two-week intensive course or the semester-long beginner’s course. Since I’ve studied Italian since Freshman year, I did not need to take Italian here, which was nice since it gave me the opportunity to take other classes. Note to self #10: Try taking at least a semester of Italian before coming to Rome, especially if you are spending an entire semester here. Knowing the basics of Italian opens a lot of doors, and it gives you a sense of confidence when walking around the city and exploring. It definitely makes it easier to get around and meet people, which is very important, since this trip is not only about spending a semester in Rome, but also about meeting actual Italians. Tim Cahill once said “A journey is best measured by the number of friends made rather than miles.” That should be your motto for your journeys, especially this one. Italian culture is all about community. People focus more on enjoying their company and having a good time with friends and family than anything else. Be sure to experience this.
The weekend before classes started there was a very nice reception at the Palazzo so that we would all get acquainted with each other, and formally welcome everyone to Rome. The orientation field trip was on Saturday, January 20th. Professor Blanchard gave us a brief introduction to the city and then the walking part of the tour started. We saw some of the most important monuments in the city, including Vittorio Emmanuele II, Piazza Venezia, the Roman Forum, the Colosseo, the Capitoline, and many, many more. After the walking tour we got on our bus, went out to the outskirts of the city to a place called Fosse Ardeatine. The Fosse are where the Massacro delle Cave Ardeatine took place. In 1944, a group of the Italian Resistance killed 33 Nazi soldiers in one of their expressions. A furious Hitler ordered that 10 people be killed for each Nazi soldier that died during the protest. Nazi soldiers went down the streets grabbing men from all social classes, ages, and religion and took them to these caves where they were all shot dead. They then proceeded to blow up the place to conceal what they did, which is why in some places you can see the sky above while standing inside the cave. Today you can visit the caves and the tombs that are on the site. 333 people were identified out of the 335 that were killed, and there is a tomb for each, even for those who were not identified. The day concluded at the Spanish steps, after which everyone went their own ways.
After the first two weeks of Italian everyone was ready for classes to start. Students loved traveling around Rome but it was time to have some structure in their lives and to start exploring the city with a more critical eye. As far as I’m concerned everyone loves their classes. For most, it was difficult to choose which classes to take since a lot of them seemed very interesting. It was a process of deciding whether they would focus on completing their majors or traveling around Rome, Italy, and Europe. They discovered that by choosing to take the classes they really want to take they are experiencing Rome in the way they want to experience it. It was a matter of understanding that our professors wanted to explore Rome just as much as we do, so they were going to incorporate as much walking around as possible. Hence our Note to self #11: Take the classes you really want to take, and that you think might introduce you to many more perspectives of Italian culture, since that is the reason why you are here, to experience Italy from Rome.