Weekend Numero Uno in the Eternal City

Weekend Numero Uno in the Eternal City

With orientation still underway, the JFRC staff had us in good hands during our first Roman weekend. Massive meals, a visit to the Colosseum, and a day in Lazio’s countryside made the perfect end to week number one, and perfect start to our first week of classes.

Friday night we had the opportunity to partake in a group dinner at a local restaurant of the Balduina neighborhood (the neighborhood that houses our campus). For 25 euros we were served a 4 course meal that lasted nearly 3 hours. As enjoyable as it was, eating itself turned out to be quite exhausting—but completely worth it. In an attempt to walk off our feast, we headed for an overlook of the city. Rome is breathtaking at all times of day, but catching my first glimpse of the Vatican lit up at night was my favorite skyline feature.

On Saturday morning we had our first chance to explore the city center in the daylight with a trip to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Before we headed out, a JFRC professor gave us a lecture about the history of these two magnificent Roman ruins. My knowledge of the Roman Forum was especially lacking, so the lecture was appreciated. Touring the Colosseum was the first time it hit me that I’m in Rome. I loved trying to imagine what this massive amphitheater would have looked like in its most glorious days—covered in marble, filled with a cheering crowd, and gladiators battling lions in the arena.

The Roman Forum was the perfect place to explore ancient Roman ruins. It’s incredible to imagine what a powerful hub the area used to be. The Forum was filled with palaces, arches, a basilica, churches, gardens, and other government buildings that are now crumbling, yet still magnificent. We were there until closing and weren’t able to see the whole thing, but I hope in my time here I’ll get a chance to return and continue exploring.

Sunday morning all 235 JFRC students piled into 4 charter buses that would take us through the Lazio countryside to visit two 16th century villas. Our tour of the Villa Lante focused on its extravagant gardens and fountains. The water all flowed from a nearby natural spring and was able to move throughout the entirety of the garden without any electricity or pumps.

Our next outing was lunch at Parco dei Cimini, which included 3 courses. But perhaps more impressive than our meal were the animals that greeted and entertained us during our lunch. The path into the restaurant was lined with two hawks and two owls—two of which later joined us inside, accompanied by an animal handler of course. Halfway through lunch that same animal handler rode up on a donkey, which a few students then proceeded to ride, because when in Rome! Right?

Villa Farnese was our last stop. The inside of this massive building was covered in beautiful frescos that were all tailored to the (future) Pope Paul III who built it. My favorite room was painted with maps of the world. Of course they were a bit off from how we know the earth to look now—the biggest issue being the lack of Australia, which at the time had not yet been discovered.

Our weekend of further immersion in Italian culture has given me a glimpse at just how spectacular this semester will be.

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