Today was a perfect Roman day. This whole trip has had blue skies, warm temperatures and the only time it rained slightly it actually felt good and didn’t require umbrellas. Tomorrow it’s over, we fly home on Iberian airlines. This will be a short entry as I have to pack and get ready to head home!
The students, following us closely in Venice, have now become independent and adept at handling Rome’s complex city landscape. Quiet students are talking more, and in all this has been an excellent trip with a delightful and diverse set of students. I’ll miss them. We’ll keep in contact, some will become facebook friends, we’ll share pictures, but we’ll never have the intense time together as a community of travelers and learners like we did the last two weeks. I had memorized all 42 names and faces by the second day, and tried to spend some time with everyone.
Today we held no seminars. We were going to have my missed Vico seminar and a wrap up in the evening, but the students wanted a final day in Rome and had developed their own plans and itineraries. Some wanted to go to mass (there was a pope sighting yesterday), and it was clear that we have succeeded at one of our goals: helping the students become confident independent travelers. So we made a deal that if they’d be back reasonably early (the bus to the airport leaves at 7:00 AM Monday) and do some work on their journals they could have the final day free.
I did redo my “Angels and Demons” walking tour. Five people went along, and it was both a beautiful walk through Rome and an enjoyable time on the last day.
At Piazza del Popolo it was a sea of pink as the fans of the Palermo soccer team were in town en masse for what must have been an important game. The team colors are pink and black and fans with pink tea shirts were everywhere.
At del Popolo after a flare was fired there was a massive explosion. It hurt our ears and we thought something went wrong. It was just fireworks, apparently, from exuberant soccer fans.
After spending some time at Santa Maria del Popolo we headed to Castel Sant’Angelo.
All of this took most of the afternoon, but it was a great way to spend the last dayin Rome.
I lived in Italy for a year in the eighties, and I’m amazed at how much the country has changed. Besides having a new political system, Italy has become cleaner, more efficient, and easy to navigate. In the eighties the games played often crossed the line to corruption and cons, now that has faded. Yet while in some ways Italy has become more like northern Europe, it still retains it’s unique character.
First, everyone agrees that fruit and vegetables are much better here. I have trouble at home getting my kids to eat veggies because, frankly, I don’t find them all that appealing. Here I love them. The flavor is intense and delicious. They have fewer chemicals, less transportation of food, and more freshness – fresh is important in Italy. I’ll miss the flavors.
Italians also have a sense of living that we could learn from. Americans tend to be task and goal oriented, often to the point of ignoring the bigger question of whether or not we’re enjoying the process of living and are connecting with others. We go from one task to another, often isolated, hurried, and finding false satisfaction in the feeling of “a job well done.” Then the next job comes.
In Italy there is a sense that life should be enjoyed — the flavors, the friends, the sights and the sounds. Most of the time there is no need to hurry, living in the moment is more important than crossing off things on a “to do” list (and Americans have a weird obsession with ‘to do’ lists! – I’d be surprised if Italians even have the concept).
In Rome the majesty of the city remains etched on my mind. Grand buildings, a mixture of the ancient with the modern, the city teeming with pedestrians out and about. Some students found that intimidating compared to rural Maine, but I find invigorating. I also know my way around — after so many trips I find Rome surprisingly easy to navigate and rarely have I used my maps at all this trip (never in Venice or Florence). My roots may be in Germany and Norway, but I truly love Italy.
So now it’s time to pack and get ready for a bright and early rendezvous with the bus for the trip to the airport tomorrow. Home is good. I miss my family loads. But this has been a very successful and enjoyable trip.