Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Day 8: I'm in Love

I figured it would take me about a week to settle in before I'd find the time and motivation to sit down and write, and here I am! Day 8 and it's finally time to start writing about this thing.

Hi! For those of you who don't know me, I'm Gracie, resident foodie blogger over in my usual playground Lekker and Liquor. I'm starting up this separate little doodad to write about this new, very short phase of my life that is living and studying abroad in Rome, Italy, for five months. This is mostly for my own benefit, to act as a journal of some kind, as I am famous for my atrocious memory and live in fear of forgetting. It also continues to amaze me that I somehow got so lucky as to have friends and family that want to share in this adventure with me, so it's for them, too. (Hi Dad!) You can also opt to follow me on Instagram under the handle a_broad_travelling.

So! As I mentioned, I'm studying abroad as a satellite student of St. John's University in Rome, Italy, through the study abroad program hosted at my home school, the University of Florida. I'll be here for about five months, returning home at the end of May. I was very fortunate to qualify for some financial aid, loans, and scholarships to foot the bill for this experience, and then ran a successful GoFundMe campaign (open-ended, in case you were wondering...) to raise some extra funds to pay for my travels around Italy and Greece. (Remember those amazing friends and family I mentioned?)

I've been in Italy before; in August, my cousin married an Italian in Milan and I spent a glorious ten days exploring Milan, the coast by San Remo and Ospedaletti, and the mountains by the Swiss border. My whole life, though, I have dreamed of Rome. I'm not sure why; none of my family is Italian, I'm not an art or architecture major, and I'm certainly not Catholic. Perhaps it arises from my love of food, I don't know, but I have dreamed of Rome as my ultimate dream city for as long as I can remember.

But you know how you sometimes have dreams that seem kind of wild, or the dreams that are just so precious to your heart that you never believe they'll really come true because that would just be TOO fantastic, just TOO amazing and wonderful that you would never actually believe it could happen? That was Rome, for me. And it took me seven days, but last night I finally had that "Holy shit, I made it. I'm in ROME!" moment. The set up goes like this: I had rallied together my group of fellow UF adventurers and other assorted St. Johns additions to go out to a neighborhood we hadn't explored yet, Trastevere, with the purpose of venturing out to a pizza place called Dar Poeta that I had heard made the best pies in all of Rome.  The 14 of us enjoyed some UNBELIEVABLE pizza and cheap table wine with plenty of raucous laughter, teasing, shouting, and general friendly frivolity--this from a group that didn't know each other at all a week ago. For someone who admittedly does not make friends very easily, it was quite the wonderful feeling to be surrounded by such fun-loving and generally loving people.

 It's a miracle we managed to scrape together enough self control to take this one photo with those steaming cheesy pizzas in front of us all.

"La Bufalata": Tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella.

At any rate, we wiled away the rest of the evening traipsing around the streets of Rome, exploring different neighborhoods (and the offerings of the bars within them!) until the early morning hours. Wandering home my companion Bruno and I fell behind the rest of the group, and while deep in conversation I suddenly looked up to realize we were unexpectedly walking right through the Piazza Navona, which I had never seen before. The cobblestones were wet from the day's rain, and the air around us was snappy and just chilly enough to be comfortable...and we were the only ones there. The entire piazza was utterly deserted with not a single other soul in sight; the only sounds that of our stylish boots tapping on the stones and the water rushing and gurgling out of what is, in my opinion, the world's most beautiful fountain: Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Both the fountain and the Palazzo Pamphili were lit up dramatically, and I stood in front of it struck dumb and open-mouthed in true awe. All of these factors somehow aligned to create this incredible moment...and it all hit me--promptly bursting into overwhelmed tears of gratitude in the process. This dream that I never dared to believe would happen is coming true, it's happening and I'm living it, right now.

I hope those moments of sheer overwhelming wonderment never stop coming.

For now, arrivederci.

Disclaimer: Please note that all photos are mine, and are not to be used for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without my express written consent.

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