For three weeks in January, 27 classmates and I traveled to Italy and Greece with Professor of English Furman-Adams and Professor of Philosophy Hunt for our Classical Greece and Rome paired courses. Despite taking the class in the Fall with my classmates, I did not really know them until this trip. New friendships were forged amidst the freezing cold, ancient ruins, and incredible food.
I, myself, did not feel culture shock, and was immediately right at home listening to the romance of the Italian language, which sounded very similar to Spanish. The random graffiti and old, tall buildings with beautiful architecture had an aura ofthe city Los Angeles. Surprisingly, there were many Chinese people in Rome, which I later found out is the largest group of immigrants living in Italy.
There is this saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so on the first night, I went to a little parlor called Alice and tried my first bite of authentic Italian pizza. Itwas much better than any pizza I had ever had in America. I was surprised that the Italian pizzas were not circular, but, in fact, rectangular. Also, they do not include marinara sauce on their pizzas unless you specifically choose a marinara and cheese pizza. My favorite pizza place was called Roscioli, which was a bakery right next to our hotel. Hands down, Roscioli had the best bread, cheese, and vegetables on their pizzas.
Besides the food, Rome enchanted me with its important monuments and sites. One of these masterpieces includes the Piazza Navona. There is also the Fontana dei Quattro Fumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), showcases four gigantic human statues amongst the waters, each representing a main river from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
The fountain unites all the different continents together and shows that the same waters flow through us all. The best part about the fountain is that Gian Lorenzo Bernini had built it in front of his rival Francesco Borromini’s church, so one of the human statues has a hand stretched out against the church of Sant’Agnese in disgust.
Another great monument is the Trevi Fountain. It was very crowded there, but I managed to throw a coin. Tossing a coin into the fountainwith the right hand over the left shoulder is a tradition amongst tourists. Supposedly, doing this ensures that you will come back to Rome again someday, and I truly hope that I will be able to return in the future.
One day, we rode for three hours to Cumae, where the author Virgil and Trojan hero Aeneas had gone before. At the ancient city of Pompeii, many crumbling buildings still survived, despite the volcano’s eruptions. The ancient brothel, with its menu of positions to choose from etched on the walls, was a favorite among my classmates.
A few classmates and I chose to go on the optional trip with Professor Furman-Adams to the Borghese Museum. Along with Caravaggio’s and other artists’ works, the museum houses many of Bernini’s art, some of which paid tribute to ancient Greek mythology.
Among my favorites were his stunning Hades and Persephone statue, where Hades’ fingers appear to actually grab and dent Persephone’s skin in a life-like way. Persephone in the piece appears to push him away. Another masterpiece in the museum features Apollo and Daphne. It illustrates Daphne beginning to transform into a tree in an effort to escape from Apollo.
I loved my experiences in Italy. The Italians were so kind, and the food was delectable and fresh. I recommend traveling to Rome for those who love L.A. and want to explore new places with a rich history and culture.
The most important lessons I learned abroad were to be present, be aware, pay attention, and listen, which allowed me to immerse myself in the romance of Rome and Greece.