It’s been over a week since I packed up my bags, following the most meticulously made (mmm, alliteration) packing list I’ve ever created and hopped a flight to Rome. The packing list paid off: I was ten pounds under on my checked bag. Running every day leading up to the flight paid off: my restless legs didn’t show up. Normal legs all the way. Even the best laid plans, however, have a funny habit of falling through, and that has been the number one lesson of the first few days: flexibility. Perhaps not one of the virtues named by Aristotle, but a virtue nevertheless.
The first 24 hours went without a hitch. I slept through most of the flight, my slumber only being punctuated by short periods of wakefulness which only lasted long enough to see someone really liked Liam Neeson; every single movie featured him. Jet lag didn’t hit all that hard, and I spent the first day in Rome alert and excited. I say “in Rome”, but the campus is technically ten some-odd miles south of the city of Rome. We tell taxi cabs “Due Santi”, meaning “Two Saints” because there’s this well dating back to the time of the apostles on campus in the vineyard. The story goes that Saints Peter and Paul met here on their respective ways into Rome. The well is this large mouth interrupting the rows of grapevines, and reminds me of the treasure cave in Aladdin. Y’know, with the tiger opening his mouth and to get to Robin Williams, Aladdin just strolls right in?
The location has its pros and cons. Pros: the peacefulness of a more rural campus, amazing vistas from the vantage point of my room. Cons: We arrived on Saturday morning. I didn’t get into Rome itself until Sunday morning.
The wait was worth it. Sunday morning broke early and chilly and rainy, and we were up before the sun was up to get breakfast and bus into the city for mass at St. Peter’s. Unfortunately, this is where we get to the best laid plans fall through part. The early morning departure meant I didn’t have the presence of mind to remember my glasses, and I experienced a slightly blurred first impression of St. Peter’s that, while being impressive, awe-inspiring, and all the rest, was still slightly disappointing.
Then we were led on our first walking tour. We stood outside the Pantheon, but couldn’t get inside because of mass. Also, this group of men dressed in military-style clothing was jumping about outside the entrance, playing a variety of instruments. Someone said it was a procession, some people said protest, so I’m still not sure. If it was a protest, it was a very happy sounding protest. Trevi Fountain was more impressive than I was expecting, especially considering the sheer number of fountains you see on in a traipse about Rome lasting a few hours. For the Romans, it was a sign of power to show their ability to waste water, so they built lots of fountains. Because of time constraints, we couldn’t throw our coins over our shoulders. The Roman Forum was my favorite part, because our tour guide, a priest living and teaching in Rome, told us all these stories about the different ruins.
So goes the first few days. I hope I never get used to this.