Piacere: First impressions of Rome

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Finally it rains. After a week of ungodly heat which likely made many people contemplate the pros and cons of walking outside naked (or simply not going outside at all) things are starting to cool down. I’ve been in Rome for two weeks now and I’m in love, how could I not be? Rome to me is what every young male protagonist is in any Disney movie to his young female counterpart: the person (or place) to which you have an instant affinity and from there embark on a romantic adventure you didn’t know you had the capacity to endure. Everything amazes me here, from the business of the city as it teems with life each morning and afternoon to  the stark quiet of the night when the city goes to sleep.

There are so many little things, so many intracies that I’d never thought I’d see or experience. For one thing traffic is crazy here, a billion compact cars, mopeds, buses, trams, and pedestrians going every which way at once. One of the more surprising things for me is the was the way people park here, it’s not unsual to see cars parallel parked in the street next to cars  parallel parked on the curb. Lets just say Romans give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “double-parked.” Many people just make their own parking spots by parking in front of dumpsters, on medians, or parking in a perpindicular fashion adjacent to a string of parallel parked cars. Walking is an equally crazy task, crossing the street requires that you basically step out in front of cars and expect them to break or swerve around you. There have been several times when instead of doing this I stood on the sidewalk waiting for all the cars to pass and was given a weird look as if to say, “what are you doing”, by the drivers and pedestrians passing me. Its a miracle that I get anywhere that doesn’t have a pedestrian light to tell you when to walk, although I find on the busier streets it helps to find a bold Roman and follow them as they cross.

Graffitti is everywhere in this city, everywhere. Its as ubiquitous as the culture and history found on every corner. Another thing found on every corner, and every place in between is dog poop. For some reason I thought that Rome, being such a small place, would have cats as the number one pet of choice. Afterall, they are small self-sufficient, and most importantly poop in litter boxes, making them a great pet for the familes living in the multitude of Rome’s apartments and condominiums. However that doesn’t seem to be the case at all, everywhere I go I see nothing but dogs and thusly dog poop. Some sidewalks have been turned into goat paths where one weaves their way through piles of petrified dog poop.

None of this is a critique of Rome, as I said, I love it here. Honestly, in some weird way these things add to the beauty and complexity of Rome. I find it oddly hilarious that the city that has been the center of some much history, so much power could be plagued by small things like angsty teenagers who need hobbies, or the the need for city ordinances that require people to pick up after their pets. Rome encapsulates the human experience, from the small inconsequential things to major movements of history. And I couldn’t be happier to be here.

Passegiata: My Time In Tivoli

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I had no idea what was in store for me when the day began. I just thought I was going to go on a couple of tours, see a few interesting things, learn a few new facts, but what happened was much more than that. I was absolutely mystified and enraptured by the beauty that lay before me, never in my life did I think I would gaze upon something so magnificent with my own two eyes:Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este two beautiful, breath-taking feats of immagination and architecture that are beyond words.

What I found most striking about Villa Adriana, the home of the Emperor Adrian built in the 2nd Century A.D., was the ingenuity and complexity with which it was designed. I can not begin to fathom how much planning and effort went into its construction. Layers and layers of materials were imported from all across the Roman empire and used to construct this magnificent compound in which even the tiniest of details were artfully planned.

From the circular structure of the heated rooms (designed to trap and circulate heat during the winter) to the dome of the Canopus (used to trap light and display the cosmos) it was all so beautiful and glorious and baffling.

As we walked around the complex I wondered what thoughts must have plagued the brilliant mind of the Emperor Hadrian, who was actively involved in the design of each of the buildings. I thought about how many nights a sleepless Hadrian would roam the halls of the palace and gaze upon the many realistic statues of his deceased lover Antinoo wishing they would spring to life. And I wondered if I could ever do anything so magnificent with my life that even if it fell into disrepair the ruins would be so glorious. And that was only half the morning…….

The next stop was the beautiful Villa d’Este built in the 1500s by Ippolito II d’Este. With wall to wall murals, numerous fountains and a marvelous view of the cascading hills it truly is a sight to behold. Its the kind of place you just want to get lost in, a place to look out at the world beneath you and contemplate the meaning of life. It makes you feel like glory is a place on Earth and its an honor just to be there. My inability to describe its beauty is a testament to just how beautiful it is. You just have to see it for yourself, otherwise you’ll never know that wasn’t just a dream.

Il Buon Viaggio: My First Flight

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We don’t travel much in my family. It just takes too much time and effort what with taking off work, and buying gasoline, and checking into hotels, just too much. And yet here I am, at the ripe yet unexperienced age of twenty-one, I’ve decided to go to Rome. Never been out of the country, never even been on an airplane but I was determined to get to Rome and there was only one way to get there (because boats take forever and I don’t know how to swim). So I secured a flight (or flights rather because it took two to get here) with a travel agency (because I didn’t trust myself to do it correctly) packed my bags and headed off on my Roman holiday. Here’s a brief look at the assortment of thoughts that passed through my head:

Wow, this is a lot tinier than I thought it would be”

This plane is comprable to a flying yellow-dog (school bus)”

“Really wishing I had a better grasp of physics so I could rationalize my fears away”

We have nothing to fear but fear itself….and birds getting stuck in the turbines causing us to explode in the sky,”

If the plane crashes I hope CNN uses a good picture of me….they probably won’t”

I hope we don’t burn up on re-entry to the atmosphere…..wait, we’re not in space…..but still”

[In my Seinfeld voice]”What’s the deal with airplane food?”

That wasn’t so bad”

Wait, I think I’m going to throw….”

Great, now the flight attendants keep referring to me as “the sick one”

“Airplane pilots should really use the word “unfornately” sparingly”

Oh my God, that’s Italy down there, kind of looks like California, so beautiful”

All in all it wasn’t that bad. But I have to admit I’m not really looking forwar to that return flight.

Sogno nel cassetto: On Faith and Travelling

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For years it has been my “sogno nel cassetto” (dream in a drawer to speak idiomatically to visit the country of Italy. And about a days worth of gruelling travel I finally made it. Here I sit, in Rome, Italy the most beautiful and spectacular city I have ever seen typing on a little weird keyboard that forces you to hold down Ctrl+Alt if you want to make the  “@” symbol. Rome is amazing, its completely foreign to me but it feels like home, like I’ve belonged here all along, and that getting here was coming to an old familiar place.

Even though I’ve been here less than a day I can tell you that coming to Rome has done wonders for my faith. The entire stressful process of getting here took some real stretching on my part. I believe in God, not a god, the God, God the Father who is intimately involved in all of our lives whether we realize it or not. And when I was down and out, when I was stressed and wondering how I was going to pay for things, if I would have the things I needed, if this trip was really going to happen I had to walk the walk of what I always talked of and trust that if God willed it then He would provide for me in his perfect timing. Sounds weird, I know, praying to this invisible God you can’t see, hoping that He hears your prayers, wondering if that little tiny voice you hear is divine inspiration or just evidence of your lack of sanity, but its all very real. In fact coming to Rome was kind of liked meeting God face to face. I did’t have to come to Rome to be confinced of its magnificence, I knew it was great before I even got here. But upon seeing it I can now say that its beauty far exceeds anything I could have ever imagine. Its an honor just to be here.

I feel like none of this makes sense (could be the jet lag talking) but nevertheless I needed to write it. I’ll be chronicling my adventures here so stay tuned. Grazie