Ciao, Italia! After years of anticipation, I am finally here. I spent this summer doing a traveling architecture studio and then traveling with friends, so to do laundry and to hide my backpacking backpack in the darkest corner under my bed have both been exciting aspects of settling into my new home.
I live with seven of my architecture friends in a great apartment overlooking the Tiber River on a street called Lungotevere de’ Cenci (“lungotevere” literally means “along the Tiber”). Although being alongside the Tiber also means being alongside a busy street which gets loud at night, and although there is an old lady downstairs who notoriously complains about the slightest noise, this is by far the coolest living set-up I’ve ever had. Primarily, this has to do with how huge the apartment is. In collegetown (oh, that faraway place), it is fairly common to live with seven other people in one disintegrating house, but it is unheard of for so many people to live in one apartment. Here at Cenci, though, the wide hallway, the high ceilings, and the huge rooms make it completely possible and even great. Granted, most of us have roommates (I share the room with my friend Carly), but the size of the rooms makes that easy.
One of the first things I noticed in Italy, and this rings true of other European countries I’ve been to this summer, is that Italians make extended eye contact on the street. However, this is usually neither inviting nor aggressive. It seems to be because they are genuinely curious about other people they see, and don’t think there is anything wrong with showing it. In the United States, if I ever wanted to take a closer look at someone I see in a public place (hypothetically, of course), I would have to be sneaky about it. Here, it seems culturally normal to look at others and not feel obligated to smile or say anything. Good thing, too, because Rome seems to be a people-watcher’s paradise.
I have now written what seems to be the majority of a blog entry, and I haven’t even touched on the city itself. In fact, I am rather avoiding the issue, because I don’t know where to begin to describe a metropolis so layered with history and culture. I have been here for a week now and I spent the last three days with my parents, who were visiting me before school starts. I have been going on extended walks every day, with either my parents or my roommates. By now, I’ve seen most of the touristy sites and explored a few monasteries and back alleys, but I feel as if I am just beginning to get a grasp on this city. The more I see, the more I want to see. I can’t wait for September, when the majority of tourists will go back home and Italians will return to Rome from vacation. As an architecture student, I search for authenticity in every place I visit, and so far it’s been hard to catch more than glimpses of that in Rome. When the masses of tourists are gone, I hope to find more of the “real Rome”, whatever that may be!