Friday, October 19th, 2018

Semester at Sea

Posted on September 29, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Joie Grandbois-gallup

Rome.  When one thinks of Rome the mind brings up images of the Coliseum, the Vatican and the Spanish Steps.  It is assumed that all visitors to Rome will make the rounds of these icons of the ancient world and most do.    When our ship arrived in Civitavecchia, the Port of Rome, I had plans to approach Rome a little differently.

The professor in my travel writing class had been promoting the idea of allowing oneself to “get lost” in a new place.  He of course did not mean this literally but instead suggesting that sometimes it is best to approach a place without a set plan or route, instead allowing one’s whim to lead the way.  This was how I decided to investigate Rome.

What things does one discover when following only one’s nose?  Instead of the coliseum I came upon a hill five stories high that was made up entirely of discarded terracotta olive oil jars that had accumulated over a 1,200 year period beginning in 200 BC.  Today it is surrounded by restaurants, music clubs and artist studios which have taken advantage of the abandoned wine cellars that were dug out of the hill in the early 13th century.  

On the advice of a sandwich maker I made my way along narrow alleys and streets to Trastevere and Piazza Santa Maria.  The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome, can be found there.   The mosaics of Pietro Cavallini that catch the light from hidden windows in the dome of the church and a painting of the black Madonna are two treasures to be found here.

My wanderings also took me to a lovely view of the city with all of its towers, domes and ancient walls from the top of the Gianicolo or Janiculum, icy cool lemon gelato at a small stand on the narrow streets of Trastevere and a quiet church filled with the sound of priests singing afternoon prayers.

As I took the train back to Civitavecchia that evening it occurred to me that though my day did not include the more famous sites in Rome I did not feel that I had missed or lost out on anything.  My day, and my memories, was now filled with unexpected and unique treasures of sight, taste and sound.  Treasures that, had I entered Rome with a plan, I would not now be able to count among the highlights of my journey.

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