Questa volta l’anno scorso, ero a Roma per studiare italiano.
This time last year, I was in Rome studying Italian. I had worked three jobs for five months to save for this. I would only be gone for two weeks, but I had big plans. I struggled desperately to find my host home. After walking up hundreds of stairs, I was buzzed into a building by the 83-year-old nonna that would be hosting me.
Guilianna and her friend, Maria, lived in a beautiful three bedroom apartment, overlooking the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli. Inside the basilica was an original Michaelangelo statue, Moses. Inside the apartment, however, was the most breathtaking of it all. Flower pattern table clothes, tall plants in the corners of the room, the most cliche and adorable Italian kitchen. I remember thinking, it’s small, but it’s perfect.
I remember the morning of my first day of classes, I woke up early to study. Guiliana was already awake, had heard me waking up, and had a coffee prepared for me when I went into the kitchen. I was so enchanted by her comforting and maternal demeanor.
I would learn to look forward to her carefully placed breakfast every morning. A cup of coffee made from a Moka, some fetta biscotti, jam/jelly/Nutella, a banana, maybe cereal and milk. I felt like I was a child again; that she was my grandma preparing me lunch while my mother was at work. It felt a bit surreal.
My walk to school was visually stimulating and exciting. I took mental note of all the places I wanted to visit, such as the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore and Via Panisperna. Sometimes I took the metro one stop to school. It didn’t save me much time, but it took me to Roma Termini, the central train station. Neon lights from massive advertisements, designer shoe stores, and cafes were immediately in your face.
I even remember that one of the cafes had the most incredible sandwich. It was a fresh, fluffy, and warm baguette, with prosciutto, arugula, and fresh cheese. I had not expected it, considering I had bought it in a train station, but boooooooy. I will never forget that sandwich.
I would walk a few blocks from Termini to my school on Via Marghera. It was a few stories of square tiles, picturesque staircases, classrooms, cafes, and lounge areas. The school was great. The reception was friendly, the cafe was delicious, the quality of education was phenomenal, but still, I wasn’t completely at ease there. I didn’t feel a connection with my other classmates and at times I felt a bit secluded. My friend Maia, a Norwegian girl that I met on a beach in France, would come to Rome two weeks later and save me from my loneliness.
I soon discovered that my house was a mere five minutes walk to the Colosseo. I would take some back roads down a hill, stop at a bar and get an espresso and a sweet, and walk down to the viewpoints. I got in the habit of sitting on the edge of the cliff facing the Colosseo, with my feet hanging over the side, and just sitting there, watching the Colosseo and drinking my espresso.
A week in, I decided to stay a month total and was able to become a lot more comfortable in the city. I would wander into multiple cathedrals a day, admiring the art and sitting on the creaky wooden pillars. At the end of my stay, I would not be surprised if I had visited more than twenty cathedrals.
I eventually did all the tourist stuff that I secretly enjoy. I had a gelato at some random gelateria, saw the Trevi Fountain, went to some national museums, and bought some nice Italian shoes.
I became fluent in every alley and staircase of the Monti quarter, saw some Roman ruins, and massive piazzas. I took so many pictures because I wanted to be able to remember the scenes, but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t waste the moment.
I experienced way more in that month than I could have hoped for, and a part of me fell in love with Italy. I would look back on my time with Maia, my host mother, the food, and my school with fondness and would soon find myself back in that city.
Here are a few more photos from my trip: