Eric: Rome, day 2January 21, 2011
Mamma Mia! Long day!
Accent center orientation: 9.00
Café (Bar Amore): 9.15
Academic orientation: 10.30
Basilica di San Pietro : 12.00
Lunch (Borgo Pio): 13.00
Walking tour (Castel Sant’ Angelo, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Spanish steps, Roman forum, Coliseum): 14.30
L’apertivo (drinks and snacks): 17.25
Students only pub crawl: 18.30
I am pretty exhausted from today’s orientation, but I can say that this was one of the best days of my life!! The day started out somewhat overcast and slightly humid, which was very comfortable in a light coat and scarf. Me and my housemate Brian ended up waiting at the wrong bus stop, but luckily Chelsea and Sophia, fellow students and also our neighbors, recognized us and helped us get on the right bus. The bus sign posts are very hard to understand here, but to tell you the truth I have a hard time reading bus schedules in the States so I am already quite used to being clueless about navigating cities via bus. I personally would rather walk, but with the speed of traffic and lack of sidewalks means that assuming the role of a pedestrian is a gamble.
I am amazed at the choreography that is Italian driving! Busses, scooters, cars, ambulances all vying for the same cobblestone roads at breakneck speeds. The road that leads from the Trastevere to Roma proper is a scenic switchback along the west end of the Tiber, and our bus driver deserves a medal for navigating that pass. At every point where the bus rounded a sharp 180 degree curve the front end of the bus was inches from scraping every car parked along the edge, but he kept the bus sailing at 30 MPH!The ACCENT center is where the classes will be held, and is a very beautiful space with modern fixtures. The building was originally commissioned as the Vatican bank, but controversy ensued as the bank was deemed too far from the Sistine chapel to be considered the Vatican bank and the space was instead used for several other purposes in it’s 400 year lifespan. Residents still occupy the top level, and I believe the rent is not cheap.
After a quick info session we went for a break at the café around the corner. Bar Amore serves fantastic coffee and pastries. The entire shop was about the size of your typical Starbucks bathroom and I loved it! Everyone crammed into the 300 year old bar with original watercolors and oil paintings of the sights decorating the walls. Apparently they had just recently remodeled the interior, but it would be hard to tell because essentially they tried to keep as much of the previous aesthetic as possible. Steven, one of the program directors, explained to me that if a bar looks like too much work has gone into the interior Italians will hesitate to go there thinking that the proprietors must be hiding something under a mask of interior design.
After another quick information session we took the quick walk from the center to the bus stop at the Plaza Nuevo. By now the sun had come up and the walk was very surreal. Damp streets reflecting a bright early morning sun while a symphony of scooter engines played in the background. When we exited the bus we were able to see the Basilica’s grand dome reaching toward the sky.
The Piazza is impressive enough with the grand obelisk rising above from the center surrounded by a nativity scene that is erected during the holiday season, which is celebrated well past the New Year in Roma. After some photos we went through the security checkpoint and into the Basilica’s grand entrance. It is really hard to describe the feeling of entering such a building. All the light is natural light except for some small accent lights places at various points. The colors are muted in grays and auburns and the respectful murmur of impressed visitors completes the ambiance. The amount of marble that the building is made of is unreal. Everywhere you look is marble, and imagining the sheer mass of the building is mind-blowing. You almost feel the heaviness of the structure humbling you before God. From there we took a short walk down the quiet back streets to a small restaurant. I had the Gnocchi with ragu and the texture was phenomenal.
I could go on forever about the rest of the day but it is time for me to lay down and prepare for tomorrow.Arriviaderci! Ciao!