My first two years of undergrad were spent on-campus, in the dorms. My brother had gone on a study abroad program his junior year, and I decided I was going to do the same. Silly me, not only did I go to the same college he went to (well, as close as I could considering that he went to a men’s college and I went to a women’s college…), but I also went on the same study abroad program he did, the Greco-Roman program. We spent the first two months of fall semester in Athens, Greece, two weeks in Istanbul, and two more months in Rome, Italy.
I loved Athens in a somewhat distant way – she was a little gritty for me, and she scared me a bit. It probably didn’t help that our hotel was in the middle of the red-light district, and was two blocks away from the city square that was home to a couple of hundred homeless Albanian refugee men. But Rome, oh Rome. Italy, ma bella Italia! How I love Rome, and by extension, Italy….
My first memory of Rome came after two horrendous flights – Istanbul to Athens and Athens to Rome. While in Istanbul, several of us got food poisoning, me among them. I’d never taken a final while in the throes of being sick before, but I took one in Istanbul that way. The flight to Rome saw several of us rotating throughout the bathroom. So anyway, that first memory was of our group – all 28 of us – waiting for a bus to come pick us up and take us to our hostel. Two of our number had been detained on their way in to the country, and they showed up shortly before the too-small bus did. I had taken an air sickness bag from the plane when I was disembarking – which turned out to be a wise choice. As we careened through the outskirts of the city, and slowly made our way in, I remember taking out the bag, looking off to the left, seeing a pyramid (which turned out to be in the Protestant Cemetary [halfway down the page]), and using said bag. The girl sitting next to me, Teresa, looked at me with surprise, saying, "Wow! You threw up really quietly. I’m impressed!"
Nice first memory. Fortunately, they got better after that. We stayed in a hostel run by some Irish Dominican nuns, and they put up with exactly NO nonsense. S. Katie ran the joint, and no one crossed her. (Except Teresa and Ru. But that’s their story to tell, not mine.) There was a nun who sold us all stamps so we could send postcards and letters to our friends and family back in the states. (This was in 1991, pre-widespread-email days.) She did all the math longhand, and let me tell you that adding up all the zeroes in the lira took her forever!
One of my favorite solo jaunts was to go to the Roseto Comunale, the community rose garden, that was a five-minute walk from the hostel. The roses were gorgeous, and the feral cats who lived there had wonderful personalities. I have many photographs of those cats amidst the foliage.
In later years, I’ve been back to Italy a few times. Every time I’ve spent time in Rome, but the last time I went was with my parents and brother and his family. We spent a week in a villa in Tuscany. There was this one meal we ate, in the tiny walled town of Monteriggioni, at a restaurant called Il Pozzo. I had the most amazing truffle ravioli – they were cooked and served in parchment paper. And the wine we had with the meal was stunning too – it was a Fonteruttoli 1998 Chianti Classico Riserva.
I fully intend to go back to Italy someday, and will bring Amy with me when I go. I only hope she loves it half as much as I do.