Becoming Roman

Ciao!  I’m Amanda and I am a junior in the Architecture B.S. program.

It has been about a week and a half since our arrival in Rome.  Although this is in reality a short amount of time, we are all gradually noticing changes in our behavior and how we interact with the city.  I find myself feeling less and less like a tourist each day as I become accustomed to the different neighborhoods throughout Rome.  That said, I still find myself in awe of the beauty that fills the city.  Every street seems to lead to some fantastic monument that I’ve read about my entire life or a quiet charm from the everyday lives of the citizens of Rome.

One of the most fascinating things to me is observing how a city filled with so much history has adapted to modern day life.  When walking through streets filled with shops and restaurants, one can suddenly turn a corner and be faced with a structure hundreds or even thousands of years old.  My favorite experience with this has been the Pantheon.  It is situated in the center of a seemingly normal neighborhood.  The first time seeing this building it appeared out of nowhere.  We rounded a corner and suddenly it was there.  Modern day life has encroached as close as it can to this historic church.  Cars speed by other structures and people seem to always be moving. I have to fight the urge to stop and stare at everything I come across.  The people of Rome seem to be so accustomed to the history present in their city that it is merely a backdrop in their lives.  For instance, a large area of ruins has been adapted into a cat sanctuary.  From my experience I would have assumed these ruins were to be carefully preserved.  However, ruins are no stranger to Rome and can literally be found everywhere in the city in some shape or form as I am coming to learn.

Being in Rome is also changing my personal comfort zones.  Aside from the language barrier, cultural differences push what I have been accustomed to my whole life.  Whether it be learning to fit into even the smallest gap on the tram rides, remembering to weigh my produce before I check out at the grocery store, or maintaining the “bella figura” I find myself more self-conscious of how I am presenting myself in public and trying to avoid being the stereotypical tourist.  Additionally, even after a week of classwork, the way I examine the world around me is beginning to shift.  I can be an overly analytical person at times, thinking of every possible outcome for a situation, but I have never been this way with my art.  Art, especially in the form of drawing, has always been simply mimicking what I saw.  Now I find myself exploring the various qualities of structures and spaces throughout my sketchbook.  I am more eager to try new mediums of design to see what qualities they reveal about places and am curious to see how my methods change throughout the course.

Adjusting to life here has been an interesting experience.  Although it is strange at times to not have a set weekly schedule of classes, I am enjoying exploring the city.  In particular, my days are mostly spent walking through the streets surrounding the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo, which are in my area of Rome to map for the course project.  There is so much life in these streets (and so many stairs to climb) that I often get lost in my thoughts observing the daily lives of the people in the city.  There is always something to do here.  My days are filled with sitting and drawing in beautiful piazzas, wandering through the streets of the city and trails of parks, or trying a new place for my daily serving of gelato.  I look forward to all the many things I know I will be learning and discovering in the upcoming weeks of being in the Eternal City.

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