This update is coming to you from an apartment WITH WIFI! Can you believe it?! We had the wifi installed bright and early one Thursday morning, a whole month after I first arrived here, and by that time I was desperate to have internet back. Not just for the social media and contact with the world, but also because it’s near on impossible to navigate around a city you’ve never been to if you’re a) without a map and b) without internet.
Over the last month I’ve spent quite a lot of time rearranging my module choices and my timetable (if you have me on Snapchat, you will know all about this!), but I’ve also been a proper tourist and seen some beautiful tourist sites. I went up the Gianicolese (Janiculum Hill) and from there you can see the whole of Rome! Until that point I didn’t really feel properly settled here and Rome was still a ‘Foreign City’, but now it feels like home. Seeing such an incredible view, it is hard not to feel a connection to the city. I’ve also spent a few days on the university campus as they recently ran International Welcome Week. It was a good opportunity to meet other Erasmus students, but one thing I learnt is that there are a LOT of Spanish students who do Erasmus and they tend to stick in packs – good job I took Spanish A Level! Although I’m not quite sure that discussions about magical realism in Garcia Marquez’s work is the best way to go about making friends…
I also visited two places that I’ve been wanting to visit forever: the Campus Martius and the Circus Maximus. One was amazing and one was very disappointing. The Campus Martius was an enormous, flat field by the river Tiber where the Roman Army used to train its soldiers (see Horace Odes 1.8 for a poetic interpretation of this!), and quite honestly, I still expected to see it. Over sixth form/first year I developed quite an interest in the Roman Army and having read so much about it, the Campus Martius was definitely on my To See list. I wasn’t expecting anything grand, but I certainly didn’t expect what I found: the Spanish steps and Rome’s high fashion shopping street, via Condotti. Don’t get me wrong, the Spanish steps were lovely, but the classicist in me was very disappointed when I saw a sign describing all the ‘new’ things which had been built on the Campus Martius.
The Circus Maximus, on the other hand, had retained its Ancient status! The Circus Maximus used to have a huge arena on it and it was where the biggest chariot races were held and processions to the gods were made. It is also the setting of a particularly hilarious poem of Ovid’s, where he gives tips on the best way to pick up women at the Circus (Amores 3.2, if you’re interested). You can still see the shape of the arena, and the centre bit still exists (although it is artificially raised up), and it has almost turned into a park now, where families have their picnics and kids play football! Crazy to think that a few millennia ago, Ovid and his mates were sitting there watching the horses and looking desperate in their search for women…
One thing that very much surprised me about the university here in Rome was how beautiful its campuses are. There is a main campus for almost everything, and then a separate one for Philosophy and Classics (my disciplines!) – which absolutely no one told me about until I got stressed that I couldn’t find the office to register. The Classics campus is a 10 minute bus ride away from the main one, and it’s opposite the Afghanistan Embassy which is constantly patrolled by armed soldiers, but the campus itself is incredible. I thought Durham was nice, but Villa Mirafiori beats it any day in my opinion! It is made up of a few Mediterranean style buildings and roof terraces with the most gorgeous views:
And that has been my first month! It is passing in a whirlwind, but at the same time it feels like I’ve lived here for years. My classes start officially the day after tomorrow, so next time I’ll have news about the Italian university system for you!