I’m three weeks into my study program in Rome. I live a few blocks away from the Vatican, and I can see Castel Sant’Angelo from the window of my school. Around every corner is a breathtaking piazza, a church painted in the Baroque style, a monument recognized by UNESCO.
And the city just has the most beautiful color palette - burnt orange, shades of red, peach. Each building relies on its neighbor to paint stunning city blocks. Rome is just as breathtaking as I hoped it would be - I can’t help but stare upwards as I walk.
In my last post, I mentioned that I was nervous about being far from home for the holidays. Last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and I went out of my way to celebrate. I made arrangements to be a guest at a large meal with Jewish tourists and Romans. On Wednesday night, when the holiday began, I prayed at a small synagogue, where the rabbi conducted his sermon in Italian. I tried to take a thing or two away from his flamboyant Italian hand gestures and occasional recognizable phrases.
Thursday morning, I attended services at the the Great Synagogue of Rome. The inside is exquisite, with high ceilings, gold paint and images of palm trees. Please visit, even if you aren’t Jewish. Everyone around me spoke Italian, so I was, of course, overwhelmed. But the women around me kissed each other’s cheeks, doted on one another’s toddlers. It was just like being at services back home, in Indiana.
The actual service was in Hebrew, and for the most part it was conducted in very much the same way. The shofar - an ancient musical instrument used for the holiday - sounded just the same. How special is that? Even abroad, I can find ways to take part in the traditions that mean so much to me, while still learning about different communities. That’s exactly what I came to Rome to do.
I’ll admit, the first few days were hard. You’re in a new place and you never get enough sleep and you have to keep on saying, “so sorry - I’m awful with names!”
But I’ve started to make really lovely friends from all over the United States. One of the great things about the studying abroad is that the other students have a shared interest in exploring other cultures, and that’s significant.
So this is my home for the next three months. I’ll buy the boxed pasta around the corner tens of times, I’m sure, because it costs 3.50 euro and I’ll spend too much money on desserts. And eventually I’ll get used to crunchy towels, because we don’t have a dryer. Hopefully I’ll get rid of this newly formed caffeine dependency, but I doubt it. Love an Italian cappuccino.
Until next time, ciao, ciao.
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<p>Born and raised in Indiana. Very likely to ask, “if you could eat anything right now, what would it be?” at the wrong times. Join me as I write my way through Italy!</p>