A big theme of my time abroad thus far has been perception versus reality: the way I view a destination or group of people in my head is always vastly different from what I experience. This past weekend three of my friends and I traveled to Rome for two days- a whirlwind trip we took with the intention of seeing as many places and absorbing as much history as possible. We decided on a Vespa tour, equipped with a expert tour guide to realize this goal. Aside: don’t worry! We rode on Vespas- we didn’t drive! I’ll admit we’re reckless at times but at least we were cognizant of our complete incapability of driving a Vespa through the crowded streets of Rome, laden with Italian drivers (and I thought Miami drivers were bad!) We were able to see and learn the history of the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Via Appia, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain (undergoing renovation :/ ), St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Forum, the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Caesar, the Pyramid of Cestius, the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the Arch of Constantine, and the Baths of Caracalla, all in one day.
Initially, I wasn’t looking forward to listening to history for four hours as I’ve never really had a taste for it, but considered it a necessary evil because I knew I would regret not learning as much as possible in Rome. But something about this trip was different: standing afoot a monument that is over 1600 years older than the country you’re from is absolutely mind-blowing. Though I assumed I wouldn’t remember anything about the history of the Roman Empire, I actually already knew most of it. So I guess I was paying attention in middle school history after all! (Something my World Civ. grades did not reflect.) I learned predominantly about the violence and brutality of the Romans and not much about their innovation and genius. Our tour guide gave us the history of each monument in the form of a fluid, unified story- a medium through which I could fully comprehend and appreciate the scope of impact that this civilization had on our lives today. The Romans created the foundation for many of the innovations we use daily and for modern civilization itself. As we stood (…I not only stood but also tripped…) on Via Appia- the first ever road- I realized how remarkable a civilization this was. Touching the grooves in the ground created by the wheels of horse-drawn chariots facilitated a feeling of connection to an extremely distant culture that was simultaneously ancient and modern.
Feelin’ straight out of the Lizzie McGuire Movie and no doubt sporting my standard high-on-life grin, we traveled to the Baths of Caracalla. Here witnessed the still-standing walls that enclosed the birthplace of modern hygiene and exercise. Drawings exist depicting ancient Romans lifting weights that look just like the ones we use in gyms today and sporting the first-ever binkins. Thanks Ancient Rome for providing the City of Miami with its uniform! The baths provided both hot and cold running water, delivered by precisely constructed aqueducts. The domes of ancient churches were constructed so that the sun would illuminate a certain portion of the church at a specific date and time each year, a feat requiring extensive precision and scientific knowledge. Granite pillars weighing thousands of pounds were transported from cities within the empire miles from their final destination. Every single fact and anecdote was nothing short of awe-inspiring. To achieve this all in the absence of modern-day technology is extraordinary.
Italy- you’ve done it again- how could I not be enamored with a land so rich in history? Thanks for letting me realize my dream of being Lizzie McGuire!
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<p>I'm Madison Qualy- a swimmer at the University of Miami. Saint Louis bred me; Miami deals with me. I am a junior, double majoring in Ecosystem Science and Policy and Marine Affairs, and minoring in Spanish. I hope to attend law school and practice environmental law. I love sports, animals, and wine. Follow all the tomfoolery I get into in Milan via my posts!</p>