If you can believe it, it is already April in Rome and I have just over 1 month left of my study abroad experience. Where did the time go? Have I come close to accomplishing all of my study abroad goals? What do I still want to accomplish? Have I traveled to where I wanted to? All of these questions and more begin swirling around in every student’s head as this point in the semester approaches during their time abroad. It is hard to believe that I have reached this point so quickly. At the start of the semester, the end seemed so distant. You believe you have plenty of time for weekend trips and travel, and all of a sudden spring break is at your door step and you realize that you haven’t been to half of the places that you wanted to go to. But at the same time you are still grateful for where you have seen so far.
And I am VERY grateful for where I have been and what I have done so far. If this last month is anything like the first three, this will be one heck of a finale to the best four months of my life. But there is still so much to see, including the gorgeous island of Corfu, Greece this coming weekend, a final trip to Florence & Venice next weekend with, wait for it, my mom, Auntie Maureen and Cousin Megan (they’ve been asking for a shout out for a while now) who are visiting me in Italy, then a trip to the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, and the final weekend of my program my travels will be taking me to Edinburgh, Scotland. And on top of all of this, I still need to see so many more sights in Rome. With the warm weather arriving, gardens in Rome begin to open and the full beauty of this city begins to bloom.
But through all of these travels, my heart still and always will lie in Rome. There is something about this city that, even when I start to get such strong feelings of annoyance towards it, lures me back in to its magnificent appeal. I must admit that I was starting to feel the effects of the study abroad “roller coaster” the week prior to my spring break trip to Ireland, which by the way was fantastic. I was starting to get annoyed and bogged down in the ways of Italian society and behavior. I love Italy and couldn’t imagine studying abroad anywhere else, but after living among a very unique culture for three months, Italians start to get to you. The language barrier is the biggest obstacle for me and many others. The rest are simply things that only those who have lived the experience that I have lived would understand. Even those who have been to Italy on a short vacation wouldn’t understand this. They are things that build up over time and one day you start to realize how lucky you are to have the luxuries that exist back home. I’m talking about simple things such as a microwave and stores that have set hours when you know when they will be open and when they will close.
At the risk of sounding spoiled, I do want to clarify that Italy truly is a beautiful country both inside and out. There is just a few hurdles you have to clear like the ones I have before you can truly let yourself fall in love with it. Ireland was EXACTLY the break I needed from Italy to realize just how much I love it. I’m working on my Ireland post as well as all of the other posts from the past month (including Prague, which I can’t believe was a month ago already).
This past weekend I celebrated Easter in the best way possible: going to mass on Easter Sunday at the Vatican. I also got a close up of Papa Francesco as he passed by me on the pope mobile, making him the second pope that I have got to see up close in the short three months that I have been living in Rome. Easter is a big deal in Italy, and this is no surprise since the Vatican is located in Rome. I actually didn’t have school today, Monday April 1, either as it is “Easter Monday” here in Rome and is a national holiday. Easter, however, is a more relaxed holiday than Christmas in Italy. There is a saying in Italy: “Christmas is at home with family, Easter with whomever you please.” I noticed at mass children were not dressed up like they would be in the U.S. and Easter baskets are also an American thing.
The mass itself was a regular Easter Sunday mass that you would find anywhere around the world, but the fact that the pope celebrated this mass obviously made it more significant. Hearing the choirs was also a real treat; their voices were heavenly, no pun intended. The mass, which began at 10:15a.m. Rome time, lasted a little more than an hour and was held in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with an audience of nearly 200,000. Italians LOVE their popes, and when the pope says mass, everyone in Rome shows up. As I’ve said before, Brits have their royals, Romans have their popes. Popes are food for the paparazzi here just as much as Kate Middleton’s baby bump fuels the British paparazzi. Following mass, the pope then made his way around St. Peter’s Square on the pope mobile, waving to the masses and kissing babies along the way. Once he had made his rounds, he made his way to the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the same balcony where 2 weeks ago he was introduced to the world as the new pope, to give his Easter Message. Speaking in Italian, he called for peaceful resolutions to come to several world conflicts, including the ongoing crisis in Syria.