Katherine Woodward is a student at Rollins College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Rome, Italy.
Upon my arrival back to the States, I was greeted with a flurry of hugs and smiles from family and friends. After the initial celebration of my return, I was bombarded with one frequently asked question:
“What was your favorite place that you visited while you were abroad?”
Admittedly, it is a tough question because I went to four countries and countless cities. Each place boasts its own unique charm. I may be biased because it is the place I called home for four months, but Rome stole my heart.
Rome is the perfect city. Modern enough for the busy traveler but still maintains charming, historic elements that make Rome one of the best cities in the world. Walking through piazzas, testing out gelato, and attempting to speak Italian has never made me feel more alive. Around every corner was a surprise. There may be a Renaissance church filled with stunning frescoes or an ancient statue. The city was a history book that came to life. One of my favorite classes was a Renaissance and Baroque art class where every week we toured one of Rome’s countless churches. The beauty of these churches left me in awe. There is nothing that compares to seeing this art in real life. With no previous art history classes, I gained an immense appreciation for the subject. And while the historic sights are must-sees, Rome offers endless activities. I loved spending an afternoon in the massive Villa Borghese park where one could bike around and enjoy the outdoors. Another favorite place of mine was the Knights of Malta keyhole. It should be mandatory for everyone to look through the opening and take in the view. I will not say what can be seen through the keyhole, but I highly recommend it if one wants to be left speechless.
And did I mention the food? My friends back in the U.S. often asked me if I was sick of the food after days of eating pasta, pizza, and gelato. The answer was always a resounding no. Despite the lack of diverse foods such as in America, I never lost my desire for the Italian cuisine. While living in Rome, the sheer number of restaurants allowed me to try a new eatery every time I ventured out. Some of the smallest, hidden bistros served the genuine Italian food that I still crave today.
Unlike other European cities, Rome has remained a true Italian city. English is spoken at many touristy places, but do not be surprised when one receives blank stares when speaking to a true Italian. Even attempting a few simple Italian words can make all the difference in a stranger’s attitude to you. While I may have butchered the pronunciation, the Italians appreciated when I tried to speak their language.
Rome left me speechless as I strolled from St. Peter’s to Piazza Navona to the colosseum. These grand, breathtaking places always caused me to reflect how lucky I was to be in this perfect city. It still feels as if it was a dream. I am already looking forward to visiting Rome again. Even though I am pleased to return home, a part of me will always remain in my beloved Roma. I can picture myself sitting at my favorite restaurant in Trastevere, watching tourists and locals wandering the cobblestone streets. I can still smell the aroma of coffee in the air of my favorite coffee bar and when I close my eyes I am standing on the top of the Spanish Steps drinking in the view of my glorious city. Arrivederci Roma!
Want to read more about Rome? Check out “5 Delightful Places to Eat in Rome”