After arriving in Rome, it took me a little while to find my way around the city. Navigating has never been my strong point, and being in a foreign country had me a little worried to explore on my own. I was surprised, however, how easy it was to learn my way around the city once I picked up a few key places. All of my classmates that I talked to agreed: Rome is a city of reference points.
What is remarkable about the city of Rome is that these “reference points” just happen to be some of the most eminent and recognized buildings in the world. Even after being here almost a full month, I am still shocked at how the abundant past of Rome is integrated into the entire city. It is astounding how easily I can turn the corner of my favorite pizza place and the ancient and enormous Pantheon is sitting on the other side.
On the way to class each morning, I would pass a massive square built on the site of an ancient stadium: Piazza Navona. I remember the first time my class turned the corner into Piazza Navona: everyone was stunned by the fountains and sheer massiveness of the square. Piazza Navona embodied a lot of what I pictured Europe as: busy with people, bustling with street vendors, full of restaurants and gelato, with cameras flashing in front of beautiful marble fountains.
Across town, the distinguished Colosseum and Roman Forum act as primary reference points. I, however, use the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II as the main point of direction. It is so easy to find because it is newer than most things around it; it is polished and white with black statues on the top. In fact, one of our tour guides referred to it as “ugly” since it does not have the same ancient charm as the surrounding buildings. Maybe it’s just my American eye, but I have to disagree- I think it is gorgeous! The contrast between the building and the rest of Rome has one definite perk: it is easy to spot from far away. After getting lost a few times, “il Vittoriano” has helped guide me home.
The only way to find your way around a new city is to dive into it, unafraid and willing to get lost. Always be knowledgeable of the surrounding areas, but as long as you are in a safe and busy environment, don’t be afraid to explore! I have found my favorite bakeries and shops by roaming around in between classes. Rome has something noteworthy around every corner; it doesn’t take long to find something worthwhile!