The day before finding out our program in Rome was cancelled, I spent the morning in Villa Doria Pamphili. A park on the west side of the city, only a 10-minute tram ride from my apartment, Villa Pamphili became my ‘happy place’ after my very first visit. On that Friday morning, walking to my usual spot, secluded in a few small hills, I passed an elderly Italian woman playing with her dog. After hearing a faint, ‘Scusi!’ behind me, I turned to find the woman speaking to me in (fast) Italian. Sheepishly admitting that I didn’t speak much Italian – after all, I had only been in Rome for a little over a month – the woman used the few Italian words and phrases I did understand to simply tell me that she thought my hair, which I had recently re-dyed purple, was beautiful.
Later that night, a group of friends and I headed to an authentic Italian restaurant located toward the center of the city. We took the tram to Piazza Venezia, walked past Trajan’s Column and the Roman Forum, and saw a glimpse of the Colosseum at the end of the street before making our way through the small side-roads of Rome to find the restaurant. We sat surrounded by Roman couples and families, all happily conversing, and ate traditional Roman meals served alongside great wine. On our tram ride home from the restaurant, I remember telling my friend, Madeline, that it was the best day I had had since arriving in Rome, and she echoed my sentiment.
While the 4 a.m. email we received the next morning changed everything – we all seemed to go from riding our highest high to hitting our lowest low – that last day of normalcy in Rome is all that I could have asked for. From my interactions with local Romans (whether they were people or dogs) in the park to the Cacio e Pepe I had the pleasure of eating at the restaurant to the company of my amazing friends, my last Friday truly encompassed all that Rome gave to me. My time in the city, while it was not nearly as long as I had hoped for it to be, allowed me to fall in love with the culture, the people, and the sights of Rome. Even though I may not have spent much time there, I already feel like part of myself is tied to the city – which, I guess, is a testament to my growth while there – and I can’t wait to return to my second home.