Buona Pasqua!

The first week of class was nothing short of fun, adventures and more walking than my whole life comprised. I can’t believe it’s been barely over a week since the first day of class, and yet, the only time I think we stopped to take a break was to figure out where we were going next.

My Tuesday morning started with a class tour of what is known as the Jewish Ghetto. The Roman Ghetto or Ghetto di Roma, was the area of Rome where Jews were confined to living as early as the 1st century and to this day is one of oldest continuous Jewish settlements in the world. Walking down the Via Portico d’Ottavia, I was both humbled by the suffering that the Jews faced and an admiration for the pride that still stands strong today.

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In the afternoon, Eve, Grace and I headed over to the Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castel Sant’ Angelo sits on the bank of the Tiber and was originally constructed by the emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family, but throughout history has served as a citadel, fortress, papal residence and now museum. Make your way to the top of the Castel and awaiting you is one of the most beautiful views overlooking all of Rome.

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My roommates and I spent a beautiful Wednesday morning strolling through the Villa Borghese. At about 226 acres, the Villa Borghese Garden is a magnificent landscape park that resembles a smaller Central Park, but is distinguished by its perfect balance of nature and Roman art. There you can find a multitude of attractions including lakes, statues, a bio park, a theatre, fountains and numerous artistic museums like the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Borghese Gallery. We were not able to get into the Borghese Gallery as you must reserve tickets well in advance, but our class has planned to go there later on so updates will hopefully be provided in the near future. With its stunning scenery and peaceful atmosphere, the Villa Borghese provides a lovely spot to get away, relax and has become one of my favorite spots in Rome thus far.
Just across the Tiber is the rione of Trastevere that has become a favorite spot for relaxing and taking a break from the main city center. Trastevere’s friendly and cozy vibe makes it the perfect area to grab a bite to eat from one of the many cafes, shop from small street vendors or just get lost walking through the cobbled stoned streets. Thursday afternoon the girls and I took a lazy day and spent our time around the one of my favorite local piazzas, Piazza di Santa Maria, with the sound of live music and the setting sun to end the afternoon on a wonderful note.

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Friday morning, I woke up early to a class tour of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. The Roman Forum is a large plaza where important government buildings and the center of Roman public life was located for centuries. The Forum is an area located between the Palatine hill and Capitoline hill where many significant ruins such as the Shrine to Janus, the Temple of Vesta, the Arch of Titus, the Senate House and other ancient temples, arches, basilicas remain. Of course, my tour of ancient Rome would not be complete without a tour of the Colosseum. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum is famous for holding gladiators games and wild animal fights as the greatest form of ancient Roman entertainment. If you can surpass the overwhelming population of tourists, this amphitheater is an iconic symbol of Rome to visit.

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On Saturday, my lovely roommates and I took a day trip to Orvieto. We took the train, like any local does, which landed us in Orvieto in just a little over an hour. Orvieto is a small commune in the region of Umbria situated high above tufa cliffs and was an area of prestige during the Etruscan period of civilization. Some of the main attractions include the Fortress of Albornoz that looks down over the picturesque hills below or the magnificent Duomo cathedral at the top of the city. Deep into the very tuff rock it sits on, you will find a labyrinth of underground caves boasting of intricate tunnels, cellars, rooms and an abundance of archeological history. The secret tunnels are only accessible by guided tour and though the English tour would have made about fifty times more sense, the Italian tour still gave us a look at the fascinating history below the city. For lunch, we stumbled across la Locanda del Lupo that we all agreed served us one of the best lunches we have had since being here. Orvieto’s quaint essence and kind people reminded me of how much more I love smaller towns and the incomparable genuineness they hold.

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In the days leading up to the Easter holiday, I could not have imagined a better place to celebrate Holy Week. This last Friday marked Good Friday in celebration of the Lord’s passion. Though you must reserve tickets far ahead of time, with a little Italian and some luck, Matt and I were able to get tickets and attended the Papal Mass held inside St. Peter’s Basilica. The majority of the mass was delivered by the Pope in Latin and was an incomparable service in commemoration of Christ’s Passion and crucifixion. To celebrate Easter in all of its glory, Eve, Grace, Felice and I woke up bright and early at 4:15 a.m. and headed over to Vatican City for Easter Sunday mass. After hours of dark, cold and pouring rain, sitting second row at Easter mass led by Pope Francis in the heart of Rome made the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, defeat of sin and ultimate grace surreal and was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

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If there’s anything I am bringing back with me, other than some really toned legs, it is priceless memories and an undying adoration for this city. To all of Italy I have seen and have yet to see, I say “ciao” to each moment and “pronto” to any adventure that makes me fall more in love with this city every day.

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