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Friday, January 30, 2015

A Month in Rome

As mentioned briefly in a previous post, my university's study abroad program allowed me to spend the month of January in Rome, Italy.  Along with 27 other students, I took the course Theology 101: The Christian Theological Tradition.  I'm no theology major, but the course is required, but what better way to learn about the formation of the Christian church in the one place that is more central to its history than any other?

We arrived on New Year's Eve, just in time for a quick nap before wading our way through the festivities near the Colosseum.  In the next few days, we experienced the New Year's Day papal address, explored the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, visited St. Peter's Basilica and the archaeological excavations underneath (where St. Peter himself is buried), toured the ruins of Pompeii (*starts singing Bastille like the music-obsessed tourist that I am*), and drove through Naples.

And that was only the first week.

(Click on photos to see them full-sized.)

The next weekend found me in Venice.  Rome may be fascinating, but Venice is enchanting.  This trip was off the official program, meaning that we were completely on our own.  We didn't have much of a plan--we just wandered and had a blast doing it.  We attended mass at the Basilica San Marco, got lost looking for a water taxi to Murano (where they make the famous Venetian glass), woke up early to watch a sunrise that was clouded in fog, and more.  My question: is this city even real?

(I feel an intense need to reread one of my middle school favorites, The Thief Lord, which is set in Venice.)

The second full week was heavier in terms of classwork, but that didn't stop us from seeing more of the gems of Rome: the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Secret Archives, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See (the Vatican), among others.  Since you're probably a book nerd if you follow this blog, I wish I could show you photos of the sheer number of books and other documents in the Archives, but cameras weren't allowed.  (It smelled like old books, too.)

View from the Vatican Secret Archives
Me: How many domes can fit in one skyline?
Rome: LOL, is that a challenge?

View from the Vatican Secret Archives
During the third weekend, we traveled as a group to Assisi, Siena, Florence, and Orvieto.  Assisi is what you imagine when you hear "Italian countryside."  It's green, hilly, and only consists of off-white buildings.  Here, we visited several major churches.  It was at this point that I lost track of which is which, especially since many have similar names.  I'm currently in the process of attempting to identify and label each church in my photos.  Wish me luck.

After a night and a morning in Assisi, we hopped back on the bus for the rest of our weekend, which included Siena, Florence, and Orvieto.  We guessed it...more beautiful churches, toured the Uffizi Gallery, saw artwork like Michelangelo's David, explored shops and restaurants, and sampled the gelato.  

View from the Duomo in Siena
The final week included an audience with Pope Francis (us and several hundred other people), a violin concerto performance, several more church visits, a tour of the catacombs, a climb to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, two papers, and a final exam.  If it sounds exhausting, well, it was.  In a good way.  Who can complain about being tired after seeing so much history and priceless art?

View from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
View from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Looking back, it's hard to imagine how we fit so much into one month--and even with all of it, there are still things I have yet to do.  For right now, though, I'm glad to be home.  I do appreciate not living out of a suitcase or not having anyone trying to sell me a "selfie stick."  However, how can you not miss Italy?  The pasta, the art, the narrow cobbled streets, casually passing the Colosseum while going for a run, the lights of Venice reflected off the canals, gold-leafed churches, the beautiful weather (and unusual lack of rain), chocolate gelato, that moment when the subway stop by our hotel started to feel familiar, climbing to the top of every high structure/hill to catch the view...   It was an unforgettable month.  I met so many amazing people and learned so much, both inside the classroom and out in the city.   

I don't think my future J-terms will be able to top this one.  That being said, I'm excited about my classes for spring semester: a theology/literature crossover course, more Communications & Journalism, introductory ethics.  I'm also taking my first college-level creative writing class, which should be so much fun.  (Be prepared to hear about this one.)

For now, though, I'm going to keep sorting through my 1,200+ photos and keep the memories fresh in my mind.

Ciao, Italia!
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