What an incredible past few days it has been exploring the city and getting settled in my little neighborhood by the river! I woke up Monday morning and had to pinch myself because I honestly could not believe I was in Rome and that one of my greatest dreams had finally come true. Two weeks in one of the most historic, beautiful and inspiring cities on the planet- what in God's name did I do to deserve all of this?!
As I write this email, I am sitting at the table in the living room of my apartment, staring out the tall windows into a beautiful courtyard. This morning for the first time I tried my hand at making Italian espresso and while it pretty much tastes like dirt, it sure does wake me up! I truly couldn't have asked for a better apartment and I get up every morning in awe of the tall ceilings, giant chandelier and huge shutter windows in my room that open to the bustling Roman street below. I feel like I found a secret gem of a sanctuary hidden behind a busy street corner, and I constantly have to remind myself that I am not the first nor last to stay here - although I am currently trying to devise a business plan that would allow me enough cash flow to buy this apartamento from Alessandra, so that I can have a summer home in Italy.
My days thus far have been filled with walking, walking and more walking! I have yet to take public transportation as I love wandering the cobblestone streets and bopping into any store or bakery that entices me. After two days, I finally got a grasp on the Trastevere neighborhood, which is where I am staying. It is an incredible area and there is always something happening, from live music to mass to the most incredible people watching. I can sit for hours in Piazza Santa Maria just watching life go by, and I have.
Yesterday, I spent the better part of 8 hours in Vatican City on a tour of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica. The tour I paid for started at 8am and naturally, I walked from Trastevere along the river to Vatican City at sunrise. When I came upon St. Peter's Square it was 7:30am and there was barely a soul in sight (which is somewhat of a miracle). I was able to sit in the square in total silence and just take in the view, which was an experience I will forever be thankful for. After, I met up with my group that consisted of 2 british, 2 dubliners and two Americans, plus myself. My tour guide was Talia, a quirky Italian from Naples who somehow made 4 hours of history extremely fun and informative. Major take aways from her tour of the Vatican include: the fact that Michelangelo was gay, Raphael died from Syphilis and most of the early popes had children that they masked by calling them nieces and nephews. I enjoyed the tour so much, that I booked a tour of the Colosseum for Sunday with them as well. I highly recommend Talia and Italy With Us tour company for anyone coming to Rome!
After Talia's tour, I spent another two hours exploring Vatican City by myself. It is such an awe-inspiring place and I felt like a better person for being there. I reserved a ticket for the Pope's speech next Wednesday morning and I think I actually might faint when I see him. Much like in the rest of the world, Pope Francis is very well received in Italy as being progressive and the change that the Catholic Church needs to move forward. I heard quite a lot about bad Popes during my tour of the Vatican, but I have a feeling Francis will forever be regarded as a good Pope and I cannot wait to see him in real life, even if I won't understand a word he says.
In addition to learning a lot about history and Roman greats, I am learning a great deal about myself as well. It is quite the experience to travel alone in a place where you know no one. I love the feeling of being anonymous in a city and I can't even begin to describe the sense of calm that comes from having no agenda, no schedule and no set plans. Everything is heightened for me here, my curiosity, my appreciation for life, and of course- my senses. Coffee smells richer, music sounds more harmonious and the wine - the wine tastes so smooth.
I first read this quote a few years ago and while it did resonate with me, I didn't fully understand it's true meaning until I arrived in Rome. It came to my mind the other day when I was staring at a whimsical sculpture in the middle of a courtyard I stumbled upon and I have been thinking about the quote below a lot over the past few days because it feels so applicable to my life at this moment and because (guilty) the beauty here quite often literally brings me to tears:
"she cried at least once each day, not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short" - Brian Andreas
I feel extremely blessed to have this experience and this time to live and learn and process. I am eternally grateful to my family, friends, co-workers, and even the random strangers who supported me in my quest to get here, to get to this point. It is nothing short of a miracle how everything works out and if there is one thing I am sure of here in Italy, it is that I will not take one moment for granted.
All my love,