October: The Museums of Rome

It’s been yet another month! Now that my daily routine has started to feel mundane (although deep down I don’t think I’ll ever get over the convenience of the metro), I’m slowly preparing myself for all of the ways I can branch out while still prioritizing my schoolwork.

In my post reflecting on September, I decided on three goals for October, especially ones I could complete during my week of fall break: Explore new food, visit more museums, and pursue meaningful free time. After my experience in Venice, I knew I wanted to spend my week of fall break exploring the city I’m living in. Rome alone has so much to offer, and as I thought about my goals for October, I knew I wanted to plan a week full of activities I would enjoy while my roommates went off on their own adventure. I decided to spend my time in various museums around the city I had passed by throughout the month, but hadn’t had time to visit.

The Capitoline Museums is a single museum comprised of three buildings absolutely packed with ancient Roman art and artifacts as well as medieval and Renaissance art. This is a museum I can access for free with my MIC card, and now that I’ve been once, I would love to write a blog post just about this massive collection.

The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitoline Museums.

Palazzo Altemps is a branch of the National Roman Museum and might be my favorite museum so far. The 15th century building houses ancient sculptures from Renaissance collections.

The Ludovisi Gaul (Gaul Killing Himself and His Wife) in Palazzo Altemps. Every half hour the lighting in the room changed, allowing you to view the sculpture at dawn, noon, late afternoon, and sunset.

I returned to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum with “full experience” tickets, which allowed me to explore the underground of the Colosseum and peek into some of the buildings throughout the Forum. Although I’ve been inside the Forum three times now, I simply can’t get enough of it—I’ll have to return again soon!

Inside the Colosseum, just above the gladiator tunnels!
A fresco depicting Christ between Mary Magdalene and Mary Salome dating to around the 13th century inside the Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum.

The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) was originally on the outskirts of Rome but is now located in a dedicated museum at Lungotevere in Augusta. This is another museum I had free access to with my MIC card, and it was such a special experience to not only study the friezes along the outside, but to walk around the inside of the altar.

The interior of the Ara Pacis.

After spending what I would call a week “in my element,” I can tell I am gradually growing more comfortable with seeing Rome from my own curious angle. I am already eagerly looking to November and deciding what my goals for the upcoming month will be!

Arrivederci e a presto!

A Weekend in Venice & A Lesson in Overwhelm

A new post, and so soon! Shortly after reflecting on my accomplishments for September, a few friends invited me to join them for their weekend trip to Venice. Knowing that I wouldn’t normally take such a trip on my own, I agreed to join them so I could expand my horizons.

We had an early start on Friday morning, waking up at 6:30 AM to catch out 7:55 AM train. After our five-hour train ride, we arrived in Venice and took a waterbus to the Biennale Architettura 2021’s Giardini location. 28 countries (and Venice) responded to the question “How will we live together?” by designing their own exhibits and hosting them in dedicated pavilions. Countries used architectural thinking to respond to the theme in a myriad of ways, such as migration and forced displacement, natural resource distribution, and anticipating the future living conditions of Earth. In the wake of the pandemic, there was a special concern for how humans connect with other aspects of the natural world and how architecture can serve as a means of creating an environment where all people can flourish. My favorite pavilion was Denmark’s, which collected rainwater from the pavilion roof and designed a path for it to flow throughout the building to illustrate the connection between life and water. As you listened and watched the water flow throughout the space, you were invited to enjoy a cup of tea.

My cup of lemon verbena tea in the Denmark pavilion. This was my favorite take on the theme by far!

We spent our entire afternoon at the museum before we journeyed to Piazza San Marco for the gondola ride we booked. We set out at dusk and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the narrow canals as Venice’s nightlife slowly bubbled to the surface.

One of my many photos from our gondola ride. What a magical moment!

On Saturday we visited the islands of Murano, Torcello, and Burano. In Murano we saw a glass-making demonstration, in Torcello we explored the quaint church and the small path behind it, and in Burano we watched an old woman make lace and strolled through the streets of brightly colored buildings. Burano was my favorite island of the three because it reminded me of Capitola, a city back home whose large sand beach I’ve started to miss.

Some of the colorful homes in Burano. This is probably my favorite photo so far!

On Sunday we woke up before sunrise and began our quiet walk back to Piazza San Marco to watch the sunrise. Seeing the empty square and listening to the water splash against the gondolas resting along the dock was one of the rare moments of serenity during our trip.

Sunrise over the water at Piazza San Marco.

So, why the title of this post?

Despite Venice’s beauty, I felt as though I didn’t really enjoy any of it. After traveling most of Friday and Sunday, we really only had one full day to explore the city, and even I didn’t take full advantage of our time there because of exhaustion and academic responsibilities. If I thought Rome was overwhelming to navigate with its multiple side streets, the addition of Venice’s canals made it that much easier to get lost. I also found myself constantly missing Rome’s familiarity and slower pace.

After returning to my apartment at 11:00 PM on Sunday night and dreading my 9:00 AM class the next morning, I went to bed wondering what I could take away from a mostly negative experience. I’ve decided that this past weekend taught me what kind of traveler I am. I prefer to take things slow and spend more time at fewer places rather than rush to see as much as possible. I’d rather wake up early in the morning and watch the city wake up rather than stay up late and witness the nightlife. Most importantly, I’d prioritize having comfortable travel; the eight-hour bus ride back to Rome may have been less expensive, but I will definitely not be doing that again.

I’m slowly learning that my study abroad experience will not always be about discovering unfamiliar facets of my personality or having new experiences, but witnessing and confirming aspects about myself that haven’t, and likely won’t, change. I have always been a quiet and methodical person who prefers spending quality time on a few dedicated things, and that’s okay! Not everyone can be the social butterfly that does the most, and not being that type of person doesn’t mean you aren’t appreciating what a foreign country has to offer you. Instead, figuring out who you are and what you like is an essential part of the adventure, whether the event was positive or negative. Part of me is thankful that I internalized such a valuable lesson in such a breathtaking city.

Arrivederci, Venezia! Maybe in the future I’ll get to know you better.